Physicians and scientists alone can’t save American lives from being lost to COVID-19. Mounting scientific research shows that widespread mask-wearing, along with frequent hand-washing and social distancing practices, can greatly reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
The AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) has compiled the latest scientific information on mask usage from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and local governments, and public health experts into one commonsense, scientific approach to mask wearing to help prevent and lower the transmission of the coronavirus. This national guidance, The Way Forward on COVID-19: Consensus Guidance on Face Coverings from the AAMC Research and Action Institute, builds on the AAMC’s recently released road map to reset the nation’s response to the pandemic.
Today’s recommendations are based on a careful review of the latest evidence by AAMC Research and Action Institute staff and national public health and policy experts, including Sheila P. Burke, MPA, RN, FAAN, Ashish Jha, MD, MPH, and Megan Ranney, MD, MPH. The national guidance is for families and individuals, as well as for state and local officials and public health experts in areas at risk of growing community spread.
“These guidelines are meant to provide everyone around the country with a unified approach to wearing face masks and correct the often-conflicting messaging and misinformation out there,” said Atul Grover, MD, PhD, executive director of the AAMC Research and Action Institute. “Until we develop a vaccine and better therapeutics, prevention is the key to reducing the impact of this pandemic. The quicker we make face coverings our ‘new normal,’ the faster we can gain control over COVID-19.”
The following guidelines are recommended for wearing cloth face coverings:
- Face coverings should cover both your nose and mouth and should be well-fitted to minimize gaps around your nose and chin.
- Cloth face masks should have at least two layers (three layers when possible). Studies have shown a double-layer cloth face covering was significantly better at reducing the droplet spread caused by coughing and sneezing, as compared to a single-layer mask.
- Loosely folded face coverings and bandana-style coverings are better than no coverings; however, they still allow for the smallest aerosolized respiratory droplets to be dispersed.
- Additional do’s and don’ts for mask wearing can be found at aamc.org/covidroadmap/masks.
When mandatory face covering requirements are in effect, they should account for differences in the way the coronavirus spreads indoors versus outside:
- The use of face coverings is critically important when indoors. Superspreader events, in which an infected individual causes many subsequent infections, are likely to occur indoors.
- Everyone two years of age and older should wear a mask indoors around people who do not live in their household, including in elevators, restaurants, cars, buses, and airplanes.
- If you are inside your own house and only around members of your household, masks are not needed.
- All businesses open to the public, no matter how limited, should insist that all customers wear masks while indoors.
- Everyone two years of age and older should wear a mask in public settings.
- When outdoors and expecting to be around others, the safest option is to wear a mask, even when briefly passing by others (e.g., running or walking by someone on the sidewalk).
- If you are outdoors and not expecting to be around others, masks are not needed.
- Avoid nonessential activities and gatherings that bring people within six feet of each other or cause a more forceful exhalation, such as playing sports or singing, with or without face coverings.
As knowledge grows about COVID-19 and its methods of spread and transmission, these guidelines will be regularly reevaluated and updated.
For more information on the AAMC’s recommendations to stop COVID-19, please visit: aamc.org/covidroadmap/masks
To speak with Atul Grover, MD, PhD, executive director of the AAMC Research and Action Institute, or another AAMC expert about the guidance on face coverings or other recommendations from The Way Forward on COVID-19, please contact email@example.com.
The AAMC Research and Action Institute is a “think and do” tank that builds upon a long-standing AAMC strength of conducting and disseminating cogent research and analyses and informing and transforming practice and policy in U.S. health care.