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The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has abruptly beefed up its advice to Americans on wearing masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus and warned against traditionally large gatherings over the holidays.
Thanksgiving celebrations are safest kept within households – and face masks protect the wearer as well as those around them, the federal public health agency said this week, in new, more robust coronavirus guidelines.
With just over two weeks to go before Thanksgiving, the CDC issued guidance on Tuesday on how to celebrate safely during the pandemic.
Despite cases surging across the US, the CDC did not go as far as to rule out gatherings on Thursday 26 November. But it did suggest alternatives to hosting events with people from other households in person, such as communing online for virtual meals.
“Traditional Thanksgiving gatherings with family and friends are fun but can increase the chances of getting or spreading Covid-19 or the flu … The safest way to celebrate this year is to celebrate with people in your household,” its latest online guidance says.
However, it also included tips for those who are still planning to celebrate with other households.
Other than mask-wearing, social distancing and hand washing, it also advised eating outdoors, limiting numbers, bringing your own food, drinks and utensils and opting for single-use condiments and disposable plates and utensils.
Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, has said each family needs to make their own “risk assessment” when it comes to Thanksgiving. In his own household, he said that he plans to have a “quiet dinner” with his wife, Christine Grady, and also to use Zoom to “gather” with their three adult daughters.
The CDC also updated its guidance on mask-wearing, highlighting the benefits of masks as a form of protection for both incoming and outgoing droplets. Previously the emphasis was on the protection that wearing a mask offers to others.
“Upwards of 80% blockage has been achieved in human experiments that have measured blocking of all respiratory droplets, with cloth masks in some studies performing on par with surgical masks as barriers for source control,” the CDC said.
But it also stated for the first time that cloth masks can protect the wearer, too.
“Studies demonstrate that cloth mask materials can also reduce wearers’ exposure to infectious droplets through filtration, including filtration of fine droplets and particles less than 10 microns,” it added.
The new mask guidance marks a change of stance from the CDC’s previous softer approach, which said the “main protection” offered by mask-wearing was to others and that “the latest science may convince” people to wear masks.
Public health officials have often been sidelined during the pandemic by the Trump administration, which the whistleblower Rick Bright said “ignores scientific expertise, overrules public health guidance and disrespects career scientists”.
Bright, a former top vaccine official, was this week named as a member of president-elect Joe Biden’s new coronavirus advisory board.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Covid and Thanksgiving: CDC issues warning and bolsters mask-wearing guidance | World news