In Revised Guidance, CDC Drops Universal Masking Recommendation for Healthcare Workers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) quietly revised its COVID-related guidance for healthcare workers on Sept. 23, dropping the universal masking recommendation.

According to the agency, the changes were made “to reflect the high levels of vaccine-and infection-induced immunity and the availability of effective treatments and prevention tools.” The guidance emphasizes that it is applicable to United States healthcare settings before clarifying that areas without high transmission levels of the Chinese coronavirus “could choose not to require universal source control.”

The recommendations have been:

  • Updated to note that vaccination status is no longer used to inform source control, screening testing, or post-exposure recommendations
  • Updated circumstances when use of source control is recommended
  • Updated circumstances when universal use of personal protective equipment should be considered
  • Updated recommendations for testing frequency to detect potential for variants with shorter incubation periods and to address the risk for false negative antigen tests in people without symptoms.
  • Clarified that screening testing of asymptomatic healthcare personnel, including those in nursing homes, is at the discretion of the healthcare facility
  • Updated to note that, in general, asymptomatic patients no longer require empiric use of Transmission-Based Precautions following close contact with someone with SARS-CoV-2 infection.
  • Archived the Interim Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Spread in Nursing Homes and special considerations for nursing homes not otherwise covered in Sections 1 and 2 were added to Section 3: Setting-specific considerations
  • Updated screening testing recommendations for nursing home admissions
  • Clarified the types of long-term care settings for whom the healthcare infection prevention and control recommendations apply

As the CDC emphasizes, "Select IP&C measures (e.g., use of source control, screening testing of nursing home admissions) are influenced by levels of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in the community. Community Transmission is the metric currently recommended to guide select practices in healthcare settings to allow for earlier intervention, before there is strain on the healthcare system and to better protect the individuals seeking care in these settings. The Community Transmission metric is different from the COVID-19 Community Level metric used for non-healthcare settings. Community Transmission refers to measures of the presence and spread of SARS-CoV-2. COVID-19 Community Levels place an emphasis on measures of the impact of COVID-19 in terms of hospitalizations and healthcare system strain, while accounting for transmission in the community."

The revised recommendations are accessible at: