Apr 20, 2022 - Health

WHO: People should wear masks in public even if it's not mandatory

Dr. Ciro Ugarte (R), Pan American Health Organization chief, and PAHO's Dr. Carissa Etienne (L), hold a press briefing about the Coronavirus at PAHO Headquarters in Washington, DC, March 6, 2020.

World Health Organization officials Carissa Etienne (left) and Ciro Ugarte at a 2020 press briefing in Washington, D.C. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Mask use is "highly effective" at reducing COVID-19 transmission and the World Health Organization recommends people wear face coverings in public even if there are no mandates, a top regional WHO official said Wednesday.

Why it matters: Ciro Ugarte, director of health emergencies at the WHO's Pan American Health Organization, made the comments at a briefing in response to questions about the U.S. and other countries dropping face mask requirements in recent weeks.

What they're saying: Ugarte said wearing masks was "very important" for the protection of individuals during the pandemic. "This has also proven to be highly effective to reduce transmission," he said.

  • "This is a measure that continues to be very relevant," complimenting other measures including physical distancing, Ugarte noted.
  • "Regarding travelers and travel by plane, we know that the use of masks has reduced dramatically the transmission during traveling," he continued.
  • "We've seen that in some countries, the use of masks has been reduced to voluntary levels, and at the same time they’ve reduced the detection of cases," Ugarte added. "We can't let our guard down."

Driving the news: Airlines and other travel companies dropped mask requirements in the U.S. after a federal judge struck down the Biden administration's rule mandating masks on planes, trains and other forms of public transportation.

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