The CDC Now Says You Shouldn't Wear This One Type of Mask

This popular mask design is useless at stopping coronavirus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been unequivocal in its endorsement of mask wearing amid the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, the organization's director, Robert Redfield, recently said he believed the outbreak could be under control in four to six weeks if "we could get everyone to wear a mask right now." But this week, the health authority announced that there is one type of mask that fails to protect others from the spread of COVID—and unfortunately, it's a popular design. According to the CDC, the one mask you should remove from your COVID-fighting arsenal is anything that has a valve or vent.

As the organization stated in its updated mask guidelines, "CDC does not recommend use of masks or cloth masks for source control if they have an exhalation valve or vent." The organization further explained its warning, highlighting why this type of mask puts others at risk. "The purpose of masks is to keep respiratory droplets from reaching others to aid with source control. However, masks with one-way valves or vents allow air to be exhaled through a hole in the material, which can result in expelled respiratory droplets that can reach others," the CDC cautioned.

Kai Singbartl, MD, chair for infection prevention and control at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona recently spoke with USA Today about the dangers of this type of mask. "It defeats the purpose," Singbartl said. He explained that while valves make it "easier to exhale and get rid of the heat and moisture," they also contaminate the surrounding air with unfiltered aerosols.

Notably, people have been ejected from businesses, hospitals, and flights for wearing this dangerous mask design, which leaves others at risk of COVID exposure. However, according to the CDC, there is one exception to the rule: "An N95 respirator with an exhalation valve does provide the same level of protection to the wearer as one that does not have a valve," the organization's website notes. This is the only mask with a valve considered safe enough to maintain a sterile field and prevent viral transmission.

So, the next time you head out in public, opt for a mask with complete coverage of the nose and mouth—one without a valve or vent. Otherwise, you're giving yourself and others a false sense of security, while putting those around you at risk. And for more on which masks are safest, Watch Bill Nye Test Which Face Masks Work the Best.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more