SUOZZI, CHU APPLAUD CDC GUIDANCE CLARIFYING INEFFECTIVENESS OF SOME MASKS IN PREVENTING SPREAD OF COVID-19
CDC’s updated guidance comes after Members sent letter to Director asking for these changes
Washington, DC — Today, Congressman Tom Suozzi (NY-03) and Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27) applauded newly released guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which specifies that face masks with valves or vents should not be worn to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Suozzi and Chu sent a letter to CDC Director Robert Redfield on July 29 asking for this clarification to be added to CDC’s guidance. The full letter can be found below and attached. In a response addressing Suozzi and Chu’s original letter, CDC Director Robert Redfield wrote, “Thank you for your thoughtful letter…We appreciate your suggestion to update our website to state this clearly. We are working with our subject matter experts on this topic and have updated several pages to include this information.”
“I applaud the CDC for updating its guidance to bring attention to this critical misconception. Many people in our communities have been wearing valve masks because they want to do the right thing and stop the spread of COVID-19, but they were not getting the proper information they needed from the federal government,” said Congressman Suozzi. “This updated guidance will make it easier for people to choose masks that work and will hopefully encourage state and local governments to add greater clarity to their mask requirements. I want to thank Congresswoman Chu for her advocacy and for joining me in urging the CDC to shed light on this important public health matter.”
“If we are to stop the spread of coronavirus, the American people need accurate and reliable information on what they can do to protect themselves and those around them. In the absence of clear guidance, well-intentioned Americans have been unintentionally put at risk by wearing improper masks they believed were protecting those around them,” said Congresswoman Chu. “That is why Rep. Suozzi and I pressed the CDC for clarification and I’m so pleased that the agency has updated its guidance to clarify that valve masks are not effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. I will continue to push for accurate information so Americans can be as prepared as possible to help defeat this virus.”
The full text of the letter sent on July 29 can be found attached and copied below.
Dear Director Redfield:
We write to urge the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to update its recommendations on face coverings to explicitly discourage individuals from wearing masks with one-way valves. While the consensus among public health experts is that “valve masks” do not protect the people around those wearing them from contracting COVID-19, many Americans continue to utilize them because current guidance does not specifically discourage their use. While the CDC website recommends the use of cloth face coverings1, it does not specify that valve masks are ineffective. Because of this lack of clarity, many people are inadvertently putting those around them at risk.
Valve masks have long been used for protection by workers in a wide range of industries including health care, manufacturing, and agriculture. While valve masks serve an important purpose in preventing these workers from inhaling dangerous chemicals and contaminants on the job, public health experts agree that they are not helpful in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Wearing a mask without a valve helps prevent one from inadvertently spreading the virus when they talk, breathe, sneeze, or cough when interacting with others. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, “because the valve releases unfiltered air when the wearer breathes out, this type of mask doesn’t prevent the wearer from spreading the virus.”
Mask wearing is one of the most effective tools we have to fight COVID-19, but many Americans remain unaware that valve masks do not protect those around them. These individuals wear face coverings because they care about their communities and about slowing the spread of COVID-19 but are not receiving specific enough information from the federal government to make proper decisions. Therefore, they might have purchased a cloth face covering with a one-way valve or have started using personal protective equipment (PPE) leftover from a job like an N95 respirator with a valve. Furthermore, in the absence of federal guidance on valve masks, state and local governments with face covering mandates could be hesitant to deem valve masks non-compliant.
In order to help Americans, make sound decisions that will most effectively slow the spread of COVID-19, we strongly urge the CDC to update its face covering guidance to explicitly state that valve masks are ineffective for this purpose.