Today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data showing the fit of face masks—both cloth and surgical—can significantly reduce COVID-19 transmission, by as much as 96.5% if both infected and uninfected people wear them properly.
"What we know now is everyone needs to be wearing a mask when they are in public or inside with people from outside their households," said Rochelle Walensky, MD, director of the CDC during a press briefing today.
"But many well-meaning people wear masks that do not fit well or fit incorrectly."
New guidance comes with new data
To fix this, the CDC has published new images and guidance on mask wearing that show the optimal coverings: A surgical (or medical) mask knotted around the ears for a close fit, or a surgical mask and cloth combination. The images accompany new data in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) on simulated laboratory exposure to aerosols and mask fit.
When exposed to aerosols that mimicked the size of COVID-19 aerosols produced by both coughing and breathing, close-fitting masks outperformed no masks or masks with gaps at the side of the face. Results from the experiment showed that the unknotted three-ply medical procedure mask alone blocked 42.0% of the particles from a simulated cough (standard deviation [SD] = 6.70), and the cloth mask alone blocked 44.3% (SD = 14.0).
The combination of the cloth mask covering the medical procedure mask (double mask) blocked 92.5% of the cough particles. Maximum protection was seen when both the "source" and "receiver" of the cough were both fitted with double masks or knotted and tucked medical masks. Then the cumulative exposure of the receiver was reduced 96.4% (SD = 0.02) and 95.9% (SD = 0.02), respectively, the authors said.
"These laboratory-based experiments highlight the importance of good fit to optimize mask performance," the authors wrote.
Walensky said new commercial mask fitters, which close gaps left by cloth masks, are also a good option for those looking for increased protection. In the MMWR study, results showed when fitters were secured over a medical procedure mask, they could potentially increase the wearer's protection by more than 90% for aerosols in the size range considered to be the most important for transmitting SARS-CoV-2.
New mass vaccination sites in Texas
As they announced last week when unveiling new mass COVID-19 vaccination sites in East Los Angeles and Oakland, the White House COVID-19 task force said today the federal government will open three new mass vaccination sites in Dallas, Arlington, and Houston, Tex., which should be operational by Feb 22.
The sites will eventually be able to distribute 10,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine per day, Jeff Zients, the Biden administration's COVID-19 czar said. Zients also said the Biden administration is well on its way to meeting the goal of 100 million vaccines distributed during the first 100 days of the presidency, and said the 7-day average of shots given rose this past week to 1.5 million.
"We've been making steady progress on getting more vaccine supply," said Zients. He also emphasized the new mass vaccination sites in Texas would help the aid in the equitable distribution the COVID-19 vaccine.
The CDC COVID Data Tracker shows 65,972,575 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered in the United States, and 44,769,970 doses have been administered.
Americans eager to get vaccine, dissatisfied with rollout
A new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows 67% of respondents said they plan to get vaccinated or have already done so, while 32% said they definitely or probably won't get the vaccine.
Resistance to the vaccine was highest among young people, people without a college degree, Republicans, and black Americans. Experts have long said the United States will need at least 70% of its population vaccinated before herd immunity to COVID-19 is obtained.
In another new Gallup poll, 71% of Americans now say they want to get vaccinated, up from 65% in late December. But two-thirds of Americans say they are dissatisfied with the nation's COVID-19 vaccine rollout, including 21% who say they are "very dissatisfied."
Despite the sizable number of Americans who said they will not get a vaccine, acceptance is growing since Joe Biden took office on Jan 20. A poll from the City University of New York Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy of New York City residents shows 55% of residents last September reported they would take the vaccine when it became available and this January, 64% reported they would take it.
In MMWR, results from a poll of representative US households showed from September to December of 2020, intent to receive COVID-19 vaccines increased from 39.4% to 49.1% among adults and across all priority groups, but hesitancy was still more likely among blacks, Latinos, and younger adults.
California has highest death toll
Finally today, California has become the state with the highest COVID-19 death toll in the nation, with 44,900 deaths attributed to the virus.
Yesterday the United States reported 92,666 new COVID-19 cases, and 3,031 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker. In total, the United States has 27,263,914 COVID-19 cases, including 470,600 deaths.