COVID-19 FAQs: Do we need to wear face masks?

CDC recommends masking indoors if you’re unvaccinated or in a high-transmission area

How to properly wear a face mask, an infographic showing a man in profile with face mask loops over his ears and mask covering his nose and mouth

You may need to wear a mask inside again, even if you’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have recovered from the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated its masking recommendations based on new evidence about the delta variant currently circulating in the United States.

Who should wear a mask? According to the CDC:

  • People who are not fully vaccinated, including children older than 2
  • Fully vaccinated people with weakened immune systems
  • Fully vaccinated people indoors in public places in areas of substantial or high transmission

Learn more: Latest CDC guidelines on wearing masks

Sanford Chief Physician Jeremy Cauwels, M.D., recommends getting vaccinated if you are old enough, and masking if you cannot get vaccinated.

“Masking children under 12 — who cannot get the vaccine yet — is a good way to keep them safe, keep them in school and prevent you from having to miss work days to stay home with a sick kid,” Dr. Cauwels said.

The CDC warns against placing masks on children younger than 2, or on anyone who has trouble breathing or cannot remove the mask without assistance.

Sanford Health has followed CDC guidance throughout the pandemic and continues to adjust its policies while keeping employee, patient and resident safety as a top priority.

Masking policy at Sanford Health

As of Aug. 26, everyone at a Sanford Health location is required to wear a face mask whenever possible, regardless of vaccination status.

Dr. Cauwels said universal masking will help slow the spread of COVID-19.

“While we are making significant progress with vaccination efforts, we are seeing unprecedented high patient volumes in our hospitals along with sharply rising cases of COVID-19 across our footprint,” he said. “As a result, we are taking additional measures to slow down the spread of the virus as we anticipate a peak in the coming weeks.”

Both cloth and surgical face masks are acceptable at most locations. Bemidji, Minnesota locations only accept surgical masks. Sanford Health encourages you to bring your own face mask but will provide a mask if you don’t have one.

This policy also applies to those who have recently received the COVID-19 vaccine. Sanford Health is still requiring masks for all visitors and patients until further guidance from the CDC.

Masks are also mandatory for individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 since we don’t know how long immunity lasts. There have been documented cases of reinfection within communities Sanford Health serves.

Masks help protect those most vulnerable to COVID-19, those who can’t get the vaccine and those waiting to get vaccinated.

Masks are only one measure

Face coverings are simply an additional measure of protection, the CDC notes. Other preventive measures are still crucial tools in slowing the spread of COVID-19. Those are:

  • Staying home when you’re sick
  • Getting the COVID-19 vaccine, now fully approved for ages 16 and older and available under emergency use authorization for ages 12-15
  • Social distancing 6 feet from people outside your household
  • Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly
  • Covering coughs and sneezes with your arm or a tissue
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick. The CDC defines “close contact” as being within 6 feet of another person for a total of 15 minutes or more — even shorter but repeated contacts that add up to 15 minutes over a 24-hour period.

Information in this story was accurate when it was posted. As the COVID-19 pandemic changes, scientific understanding and guidelines may have changed since the original publication date.

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Posted In Coronavirus, Frequently Asked Questions, Immunizations

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