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ACP Says Requirements for Masks in Community Settings Should be Expanded to Reduce Transmission of COVID-19

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13— In a new policy statement released today, the American College of Physicians (ACP) said the federal government, state and local authorities may appropriately  require the wearing of masks by the public in community settings as a component of a comprehensive public health strategy to prevent and contain the spread of COVID-19.  This is an expansion of a policy that ACP released early in 2020 on the wearing of surgical or cloth masks by the public in community settings.

“We are facing a tremendous challenge as a nation from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jacqueline W. Fincher, MD, MACP, president, ACP. “As the number of cases and deaths continue to rise through the winter months, there is an urgency to undertake bold measures to limit the spread of the disease until a significant proportion of the population is vaccinated and we have evidence that  vaccination protects against COVID-19 transmission. Adoption of masks on a large scale when combined with other infection control measures can reduce transmission risk of COVID-19.”

ACP’s policy says that the wearing of surgical or cloth masks by the public in community settings should be a component of a comprehensive public health strategy that incorporates physical distancing, education about appropriate mask use, promotion of preventive hygiene protocols, and widespread diagnostic testing and contact tracing. ACP makes the following new recommendations regarding mask wearing in community settings, including:

  • Requiring masks on interstate public transportation and in federal facilities.
  • Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) requirements for mask wearing in workplaces at high-risk of virus transmission and in places where essential services are provided.
  • Creating new federal grants to incentivize states to promptly implement mask requirements.
  • Conditioning federal grants and assistance to private businesses and organizations related to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic on implementation of a mask requirement for employees and customers.
  • Employers should implement mask requirements within their worksites, as part of a comprehensive prevention strategy, to protect their workers and their customers.
  • Undertaking public education campaigns to encourage individuals to wear masks as part of a comprehensive prevention strategy until sufficient population immunity is achieved through vaccination, and to educate about appropriate mask use, including the proper handling of masks to avoid self-contamination.
  • State governors requiring the wearing of masks in public facilities run by their respective states, in manufacturing and retail establishments, in public transportation, and in other workplaces.
  • Adequate and appropriate enforcement of mask requirements that ensures any penalties and incentives don’t cause issues with access or care or other health equity measures.
  • Federal, state, and local governments subsidize or directly provide face masks to the public.

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About the American College of Physicians
The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 163,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Contact: Jacquelyn Blaser, (202) 261-4572, jblaser@acponline.org