03:53 GMT19 January 2021
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    Although the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has encouraged individuals to wear masks in public spaces since early in the pandemic, a newly released report marks the first time that the health agency has called for their “universal” use.

    In it’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the CDC issued new guidance on Friday that urged Americans to adopt “universal face mask use” within "indoor (nonhousehold) settings" as a key step in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The guidance warned that the US has “entered a phase of high-level transmission” as the nation heads toward much colder weather and into a season that sees many stuck indoors as families gather for holiday celebrations. 

    The agency advises state and local officials to implement mask mandates for indoor settings, also calling for individuals to wear masks inside their home when a member of the household has been infected or possibly exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

    “Compelling evidence now supports the benefits of cloth face masks for both source control (to protect others) and, to a lesser extent, protection of the wearer,” the report states, highlighting the need for a multipronged approach to reduce the risk of transmission. “A community-level plan for distribution of face masks to specific populations, such as those who might experience barriers to access, should be developed.”

    While wearing a mask is the first option outlined by the CDC, the agency also states that social distancing, limiting one’s contact with other people and avoiding nonessential indoor spaces are among several top measures to help slow the spread of the respiratory disease.

    “No single strategy can control the pandemic; rather, a multipronged approach using all available evidence-based strategies at the individual and community levels can break transmission chains and address high levels of community transmission,” the report adds.

    “Full implementation of and adherence to these strategies will save lives.”

    The guidance comes as projected US President-elect Joe Biden told reporters on Friday that he would do “everything in [his] power” to convince Americans to take a COVID-19 vaccine and wear a mask, stopping short of calling for a nationwide mandate.

    “No, I don’t think it should be mandatory. I wouldn’t demand it be mandatory,” Biden said of vaccination during a news conference in Delaware. “But I would do everything in my power - just like I don’t think masks have to be made mandatory nationwide - I will do everything in my power as president of the United States to encourage people to do the right thing.”

    The day prior, Biden gave a similar remark during a CNN interview in which he said he intends to call on the nation to wear masks for his first 100 days in the White House. Biden added that the move would prompt a “significant reduction” in COVID-19 case counts. 

    As the US’ COVID-19 case count blows past the 14-million mark, the Land of the Free reported an astounding 2,706 coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday and marked yet another record with nearly 101,000 individuals currently hospitalized with the virus as of that day, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

    To date, the US’ COVID-19 death toll has surpassed 278,000, and the count is only expected to increase. Recent forecasts submitted to the CDC predict that within the next four weeks, the country’s tally will rise to anywhere between 303,000 and 329,000.


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