The CDC updated its guidelines on how to shop for face masks and how vaccinated people can socialize. Learn about the updates for face masks and more.
Its officially been one year since the World Health Organizationdeclared the coronavirus a pandemic, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released guidance regarding two of the United States primary Covid-19 mitigation measures: face masks and vaccinations. After almost 12 months of wearing face masks, scientists and researchers have learned substantially more about what qualities to look for in a mask that make it most efficacious, as well as what to avoid we even have a manufacturing standard by which face mask brands can certify theirs for efficacy. Masks aside, as over 2 million people are getting vaccinated each day in the U.S., the CDC published recommendations about the dos and donts of socializing for fully vaccinated people.
Recent guidance about masks and vaccinations surfaced as states like Texas, Mississippi, Iowa and Montana have lifted their mask mandates. Public spaces such as restaurants, gyms and schools are also reopening across the country, some with limited capacities and others allowing free, pre-pandemic levels. Yet, medical experts urge people to practice safety measures to arm themselves against the coronavirus, including double masking and investing in respirators like KN95s, as well as maintaining physical distance, washing hands frequently and regularly applying hand sanitizer.
To simplify the latest from the CDC, we broke down what to know about the latest face mask guidance and recommendations for people who are fully vaccinated, all simply put in one place.
We also included a list of products you might want to have on hand at this point in the pandemic, including Shopping reader favorite masks, air purifiers and more.
CDC face mask guidance
While face mask mandates vary by state, they are now required on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within or out of the U.S., as well as in transportation hubs like airports, bus stations and train stations. Overall, the CDC recommends people wear masks in public settings, at events and gatherings and anywhere they will be around other people.
In February, ASTM International, a voluntary standard-setting organization, released a Standard Specification for Barrier Face Coverings, which helps establish specific requirements for mask design and performance. Brands and manufacturers can take their face masks to a lab to be tested against ASTMs standard. If a mask passes the tests, it can be labeled with the ASTM standard, which signals to shoppers that it meets high-levels of efficacy.
Face masks from brand HALOLIFE are some of the only ones on the market that currently meet the ASTM standard. To help you evaluate masks while shopping, the CDC has created a list of face mask features to look for, suggesting masks…
- Have two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric
- Completely cover the nose and mouth
- Fit snugly against the side of your face, under your chin and nose, leaving no gaps
- Equip an adjustable nose wire to prevent air from leaking out
Avoid wearing masks that…
- Are made of fabric that makes it hard to breathe, like vinyl
- Equip exhalation valves or vents
- Are intended for healthcare workers, like N95 respirators
As for gaiters, the CDC says they can be used as an adequate face covering so long as they have two layers or can be folded to make two layers. Face shields, however, cannot be worn alone they can be worn in combination with a mask. Additionally, scarves, ski masks and balaclavas can be worn over masks, but cannot serve as a sole face covering.
CDC guidance for fully vaccinated people
The CDC released its first set of recommendations for fully vaccinated people on March 8, including guidelines about seeing others and guidelines for isolation, quarantine and testing. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the second dose of a two-dose vaccination series like the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after receiving a single-dose vaccine like Johnson & Johnsons Janssen vaccine.
Fully vaccinated people engaging in social activities in public settings like gyms, offices, restaurants and stores must take proper precautions. Regardless of your vaccination status, you must wear a face mask, maintain at least 6 feet of physical distance from others, avoid crowds and avoid poorly ventilated spaces. The CDC also advises against unnecessary travel, as well as medium- and large-sized gatherings.
Vaccinated people can, however, socialize with other vaccinated people in private settings like homes, as well as with unvaccinated people who are at low risk of severe Covid-19. The CDC states that the level of precautions taken should be determined by the characteristics of unvaccinated people since theyre unprotected against the coronavirus in other words, determine necessary safety measures based on the least safe person in the room.
Per the CDCs guidance, indoor visits between fully vaccinated people who do not wear masks or physically distance from one another are likely low risk. Fully vaccinated people and unvaccinated people at low risk of severe Covid can also spend time together without anyone wearing masks, and the same goes for unvaccinated people from a single household, all of whom are at low risk of severe Covid.
However, during interactions between fully vaccinated people and anyone at risk of severe COVID-19, everyone should take precautions, including wearing a well-fitted mask, staying at least 6 feet away from others, and visiting outdoors or in a well-ventilated space, according to the CDC. The same precautions should be taken if one or more members of a single household are at risk of severe Covid. As for interactions between vaccinated people and unvaccinated people from multiple households at the same time, precautions should be taken by everyone. If unvaccinated people come from multiple households, the CDC notes, there is a higher risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission among them.
What to keep on hand during the pandemic
Unlike the beginning of the pandemic when face masks and hand sanitizers were hard to come by, retailers now offer a variety of different options, allowing you to stock up. Here are some products you might want to keep at home to protect yourself against the coronavirus we filtered these down to the most purchased products weve covered based on recommendations from the CDC and medical experts.
These KN95 masks are Amazon bestsellers and come from a manufacturer listed on the Food and Drug Administrations list of Authorized Imported, Non-NIOSH Approved Respirators Manufactured in China. The masks come in packs of 25. Theyre designed with five layers of fabric and feature elastic ear loops as well as an adjustable nose bridge. The face masks come in Black and Pink, as well as White and Multicolor, although currently out of stock.
Sold in a pack of 50, these disposable face masks are designed with three layers of non-woven fiber fabric to filter out small particles while also providing breathability. They have an adjustable nose bridge and come in eight colors: Black, White, Green, Orange, Purple, Red, Yellow and Silver.
Maxboosts fabric face mask comes in two sizes: Unisize Medium/Large and Extra Large. The mask is made from two layers of fabric and it has a curved 3D design with center stitching, which creates space between the mask and the mouth so its easy to talk. Its also constructed with an adjustable nose bridge and adjustable ear loops. Masks come in a pack of three.
Under Armours face mask is designed with three layers of fabric, including an inner layer made from the brands Iso-Chill fabric which feels cool against skin. The mask has an adjustable nose bridge as well as a strip of fabric at the top that eliminates gaps between the skin and the mask. It comes in five sizes Extra Small/Small, Small/Medium, Medium/Large, Large/Extra Large and Extra Large/Extra Extra Large as well as three colors: Black/Charcoal, Slate Purple/Arctic Pink and Red/Silver Chrome.
This face shield offers protection for the full length of your face, and its wrap-around design provides protection around the sides of the face, too. It has a foam strip that rests on your forehead, as well as an adjustable elastic band to best fit your face. The face shield is also treated with anti-fog and anti-static coating to improve visibility through the clear plastic barrier.
Germ Gaurdians air purifier captures up to 99.7 percent of dust and allergens as small as .3 microns. The air purifier has a true HEPA filter which captures dust mites, pollen and pet dander, as well as a pre-filter and charcoal filter to absorb odors and trap large dust particles and pet hair. The air purifier is also built with a UV-C light that helps kill airborne viruses. It can clean the air in rooms up to 153 square feet and has three speed settings to choose from.
When soap and water are not available, the CDC recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing 60 percent ethyl alcohol. Germ-X Hand sanitizer has 62 percent ethyl alcohol and also contains vitamin E to moisturize hands. The brand says it kills 99.9 percent of germs and bacteria in about 15 seconds. The hand sanitizer is sold in a variety of sizes, including larger 32-ounce containers or travel-sized 3-ounce containers.
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