The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday clarified its stance on various kinds of masks, acknowledging that the cloth masks frequently worn by Americans do not offer as much protection as surgical masks or respirators.
While this disparity is widely known to the general public, the update marks the first time the C.D.C. has explicitly addressed the differences. The agency’s website also no longer refers to a shortage of respirators.
The change comes as infections with the highly contagious Omicron variant continue to soar. Some experts have said that cloth masks are inadequate to protect from the variant, and have urged the C.D.C. to recommend respirators for ordinary citizens.