COVID-19 Masks

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Last reviewed
August 8, 2022

COVID-19 Mask Use For 2022

The U. S. NIH says face masks can trap fluid droplets that exit the mouth while you're speaking. If you have COVID-19, these droplets contain the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that others can inhale.

The U.S. CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, stated on May 3, 2022, 'the CDC continues to recommend that all people—passengers and workers, alike—properly wear a well-fitting mask or respirator in indoor public transportation conveyances and transportation hubs to protect themselves and other travelers in these high volume, mixed population settings."

The CDC published updated mask guidelines on Feb 25, 2022: the CDC does not require wearing masks on buses or vans operated by public or private school systems, including early care and education/child care programs. In addition, on April 18, 2022, a U.S. Federal Judge eliminated the government's face mask mandate while traveling.

School Face Mask Policies

The Burbio's School Mask Policy Tracker highlights current trends in K-12 schools in the USA.

Airline Air Quality

A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) supports the conclusion that the risk of COVID-19 exposure onboard airplanes is almost zero, thanks to advanced air filtration systems, required mask-wearing, and diligent cleaning protocols. And even when the plane is full, only 0.003% of infected air particles could enter the breathing zone of seated, masked passengers.

And researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health noted in a report in 2020 that when the "highly effective" ventilation systems are running from boarding until deplaning, the risk of virus exposure falls below that of activities like grocery shopping and dining out.

Know Your COVID-19 Community Level

In the U.S., the CDC's COVID-19 Community Levels are a new tool to empower people to decide what prevention steps to take based on the latest data. As of May 1, 2022, about 90% of the U.S. population lives in a county with a low or medium COVID-19 Community Level. Find community-level SARS-CoV-2 virus infectious rate and prevention steps by county when clicking this CDC weblink.

COVID-19 Mask News For 2022

July 26, 2022 - This is the eighth update alert for a living rapid review (1) on the use of masks for the prevention of respiratory virus infections, including SARS-CoV-2. No new randomized controlled trials and 5 new observational studies on the association of mask use and SARS-CoV-2 infection met the inclusion criteria. A new study did not change the previous assessment of evidence on N95 versus no masks as insufficient, and the evidence on the consistency of mask use remains insufficient.

July 8, 2022 - NYC Health announced 'all New Yorkers should wear a high-quality mask, such as an N95, KN95 or KF94 in all public indoor settings and around crowds outside,' without citing clinical research.

May 25, 2022 - The Lancet preprint published: Revisiting Pediatric COVID-19 Cases in Counties With and Without School Mask Requirements—United States, July 1—October 20, 2021. Findings: Replicating the CDC study shows similar results; however, incorporating a larger sample and more extended period showed no significant relationship between mask mandates and case rates. 

May 18, 2022 - A new research letter published by The JAMA Network, Dr. Genevive R. Meredith at Cornell University demolished that mandatory masking, and COVID-19 vaccinations were ineffective with college students during the Omicron variant outbreak.

May 11, 2022 - The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and ECDC issued an update to the health safety measures for air travel, dropping the recommendation for mandatory wearing of medical masks in airports and onboard a flight. The joint Aviation Health Safety Protocol update accounts for the latest developments in the pandemic.

May 3, 2022 - The journal Physics of Fluid published a study that found that the flow through the mask increases with increased mask porosity. On the other hand, the gap leakage is inversely proportional to the mask's porosity. And, wearing two face coverings does not offer more protection against respiratory protection. More layers mean a less porous face covering, leading to more flow forced out of the perimeter gaps (sides, top, and bottom) in masks with a less secure fit.

May 3, 2022 - The U.S. CDC CDC recommended, not required, everyone aged two and older – including passengers and workers – properly wear a well-fitting mask or respirator over the nose and mouth in indoor areas of public transportation (airplanes, trains) and transportation hubs (such as airports, stations). 

April 24, 2022 - Mask Mania: Interview with Ian Miller.

April 16, 2022 - A non-peer-reviewed study/article: To mask, or not to mask, 'Alice and Bob's dating dilemma. 'We suggest that the simple ABD game is sufficiently general for studying masking policies for populations and investigating other complex decision-making problems with the COVID-19 pandemic, including lockdown vs. reopening, herd immunity vs. quarantines, and aggressive tracing vs. privacy protection.

April 7, 2022 - A non-peer-reviewed study analyzed the use of face masks on the impact of COVID-19 incidence among 10–12-year-olds in Finland. 'According to our analysis, no additional effect seemed to be gained from this, based on comparisons between the cities and the age groups of the unvaccinated children (10–12 years versus 7–9 years).'

March 29, 2022 - Update Alert #7: Masks for Prevention of Respiratory Virus Infections, Including SARS-CoV-2, in Health Care and Community Settings. In summary, new evidence slightly strengthened the evidence of the benefit of masks versus no masks in community settings to low–moderate, with no change in insufficient strength of evidence for N95 versus surgical masks in health care settings. A final update is planned for six months.

March 22, 2022 - PNAS published a Research Article: We find it is likely that opening NFL stadiums in 2020 had no impact on local COVID-19 case counts.

March 16, 2022 - Hospitals such as Northwestern Medicine in Chicago and Munson Healthcare in Traverse City, Mich., ask patients to replace or cover their masks with a surgical mask supplied by the facility for quality control. Studies show that N95 masks protect against airborne viruses by creating a tighter seal around the face. 

Mar. 10, 2022 - The U.S. NIH reported schools with mandatory masking during the Delta surge had approximately 72% fewer cases of in-school transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Mar. 10, 2022 - The U.S. CDC announced the government (TSA) would extend requirements for travelers to wear masks on airplanes, trains, and in transit hubs through Apr. 18, 2022.

Mar. 8, 2022 - The CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found in Arkansas, from August–to October 2021, school districts with universal mask requirements had a 23% lower incidence of COVID-19 among staff members and students.

Feb. 28, 2022 - The U.K. government published the latest advice on reducing COVID-19 transmission at work.

Feb. 27, 2022 - NPR reported: With mask mandates expiring, businesses bet on their policies.

Feb. 25, 2022 - Transcript for CDC Media Telebriefing: Update on COVID-19.

Feb. 11, 2022 - The CDC reported: Consistent use of a face mask or respirator in indoor public settings was associated with lower odds of a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result (adjusted odds ratio = 0.44). In addition, using respirators with higher filtration capacity was associated with the most protection compared with no mask use.

Feb. 7, 2022 - The ECDC reported that wearing a face mask should be considered in crowded outdoor settings where physical distancing is impossible when the public health objective is to limit community transmission. And the minimal scientific evidence regarding the use of respirators in the community does not support their mandatory use in place of other types of face masks in the community.