As the United States continues to see a surge in new COVID-19 infections, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still says people must continue to wear a mask when out in public.
Although economies are re-opening around the country—and with many states only encouraging masks rather than requiring them—spikes in 22 states in the middle of June, more than three months after the pandemic began, indicate that face coverings are still crucial to ensuring Americans’ safety.
As of June 2, Axios found that just 50% of Americans are always wearing masks when they leave their homes, with 27% sometimes wearing a mask and 10% never wearing a mask. Although 60% of Americans surveyed said they follow CDC guidelines, only 20% said they see other people wearing masks (18%) or maintaining social distance (17%) all of the time.
In April, the CDC released a recommendation that everyone, whether you think you are sick or not, should wear a mask. This is because scientists have found that 35% of people infected with COVID-19 are asymptomatic—meaning that they don’t display any symptoms. The CDC also estimates that 40% of COVID-19 transmissions happen before people feel sick.
“In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission,” the CDC said.
Face coverings protect everyone from the respiratory droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. Scientists still believe this is the primary way COVID-19 spreads.
The Washington Post also reports that several new studies support face coverings to slow COVID-19 transmission. A review financed by the World Health Organization and published in the journal Lancet found that “data from 172 observational studies indicate wearing face masks reduces the risk of coronavirus infection.”
The WHO study also found that merely wearing masks was not enough—it has to coincide with hand-washing and social distancing.
As U.S. citizens attend protests and campaign rallies, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC News that attendees should wear a mask to protect themselves and others from community spread.
The “best way that you can avoid—either acquiring or transmitting infection—is to avoid crowded places, to wear a mask whenever you’re outside. And if you can do both, avoid the congregation of people and do the mask, that’s great,” he said. “If you’re going to be in a situation where—beyond your control there’s a lot of people around you—make sure you wear a mask.”