Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

KPBS Midday Edition

CDC Does Not Change COVID-19 Mask Guidance

Medical professionals administer COVID-19 vaccines outside of Father Joe's Village on February 11th, 2021.
Matthew Bowler
Medical professionals administer COVID-19 vaccines outside of Father Joe's Village on February 11th, 2021.

The CDC fails to answer a call from scientists requesting the agency to explain that COVID-19 is spread primarily by people inhaling small tiny virus tainted particles.

Federal officials are not willing to change their health guidance on COVID-19 even though some prominent researchers, including two in San Diego, say they should.

The scientists, including Robert Schooley and Kim Prather from UC San Diego, sent a letter detailing their concerns to the president, the Centers for Disease Control and Dr. Anthony Fauci.

CDC Does Not Change COVID-19 Mask Guidance
Listen to this story by Erik Anderson.

The letter asked for guidance on indoor air quality so workers will be able to interact with the public inside buildings and still be protected.

RELATED: San Diego Scientists Among Group Calling On CDC To Tighten COVID-19 Guidance

The CDC offered a tepid response about the request to take a more forceful stand on how most people get COVID-19 and what they should do to protect themselves.

Universal community masking is one of our nation’s most potent means of controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. Abundant scientific data from laboratory studies, epidemiologic investigations, and large population-level analyses, as summarized in an article published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, make a compelling case that the masks now available to the general public are working

The agency said it is critical to make sure the masks they recommend work and they say recent studies support their conclusion.

These new data underscore the importance of correctly wearing a well-fitting mask to achieve optimal protection. Most importantly, the value to each individual of mask-wearing increases with the number of people that wear them because they both stop infected people from spreading infection and reduce the exposure of uninfected people from the virus.

The academicians say the CDC guidance puts bus drivers, grocery store clerks, or support staff in hospitals at risk.


“This response completely misses the point and is a danger to public health,” said Don Milton, University of Maryland researcher. “It doesn't address the key issue, an acknowledgment that inhalation exposure is important."

Milton said federal officials need to acknowledge that COVID-19 can be spread by aerosols and social distancing and masks do not offer reliable protection in indoor spaces with poor ventilation.

“Why would tight-fitting masks matter if it weren't for inhalation?” Milton said.

RELATED: Researchers: COVID-19 In Sewage Helps More Than It Hurts

Prather is also disappointed with the response because she said there are ways to improve indoor air quality. Ventilation is a strategy according to Prather, and so is the installation of more robust filters.

“It’s MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) 13 filters in your HVAC system. Its standalone HEPA filters. There are all kinds of ways to clean the air,” Prather said.

Prater is working with local schools to help upgrade their facilities and to design strategies that protect students, teachers and staff when schools reopen.