The Biden administration is considering steps to encourage Americans to wear masks that offer stronger protection against COVID-19, according to reports from Politico and The Washington Post.
Current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance suggests that cloth masks offer adequate protection against the spread of COVID-19 and that N95 or other surgical-grade masks should be reserved for health care professionals.
However, The Post reported Monday that the CDC is considering updating its guidance as cases spike to record levels across the country due to the highly contagious omicron variant. Sources told The Post that the agency is considering recommending that anyone who can "tolerate wearing a KN95 or N95 mask all day" should do so.
On Tuesday, Politico reported that top health officials in the Biden administration, including Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, are advocating that the federal government lead an effort to hand out N95 masks to anyone who would like one.
Politico also reported that outside advocates are pushing administration officials to include an option to directly deliver N95 and KN95 masks to the homes of Americans on a website the White House is already developing so Americans can get free access to at-home COVID-19 tests.
When asked Wednesday about making high-quality masks more accessible, White House COVID-19 response team coordinator Jeff Zients said the Biden Administration is "strongly considering options right now to make high-quality masks available to all Americans," though did not go into detail about those options.
Studies have shown that while cloth masks do help prevent the spread of COVID-19, surgical masks and N95s offer significantly better protection. Experts say that double masking is another way to limit the spread of the virus.