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Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty

The CDC is urging “universal face mask use” for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, citing recent case spikes as the U.S. has entered a phase of “high-level transmission” before winter officially begins.

Why it matters: Daily COVID-related deaths across the U.S. hit a new record on Wednesday. Face coverings have been shown to increase protection of the wearer and those around them, despite some Americans' reluctance to use them.

The big picture: "With colder weather, more time spent indoors, the ongoing U.S. holiday season, and silent spread of disease" the country now requires requires a multi-pronged approach to reduce the risk of transmission. Universal mask use outside people's homes — whether indoors or in close proximity to others outdoors — is one crucial strategy, according to the CDC.

  • 50% of new infections are transmitted by asymptomatic people, which means face masks are essential to avoid contact.
  • Other strategies for prevention include social distancing, postponing travel and safeguarding at-risk groups.
  • The CDC has also advocated for creating community-level plans to distribute face masks to populations with barriers to access.

What they’re saying: “Consistent and correct use of face masks is a public health strategy critical to reducing respiratory transmission of SARS-CoV-2,” the CDC said in its Friday statement.

Context: Wearing face masks has been a contentious issue in the U.S., with states divided on mask mandates.

  • President Trump and some Republicans in his circle have not always followed CDC guidance to wear masks.

What to watch: President-elect Joe Biden told CNN on Thursday he plans to ask the American public to wear face masks for his first 100 days in office.

Go deeper

Jan 26, 2021 - Health

U.K. surpasses 100,000 COVID-19 deaths

Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

The U.K. on Tuesday surpassed 100,000 coronavirus deaths almost a year after the first two cases were reported in the country, according to government figures.

Why it matters: It is the first European country and fifth country in the world to reach the threshold. The country reported 100,162 deaths on Tuesday.

Scammers have stolen over $130 million in coronavirus-related schemes

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Over 100,000 Americans have collectively reported roughly $132 million in fraud losses from scams related to the coronavirus and government stimulus checks since the March start of the pandemic, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Why it matters: Coronavirus-related fraud complaints peaked in May when the IRS began sending its first round of stimulus checks. Congress recently proposed a second round of stimulus.

Jan 26, 2021 - Health

Biden admin to boost COVID vaccine delivery to states for at least 3 weeks

Vice President Harris receives her second COVID-19 vaccine dose in Bethesda, Maryland, on Jan. 26. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration plans to increase its COVID-19 vaccine shipments to states and tribes from 8.6 million doses per week to 10 million for at least the next three weeks, as part of an effort to vaccinate the majority of the U.S. population by the end of this summer.

Why it matters: Hospitals in states across the U.S. say they are running out of vaccines and the country's death toll is sharply rising.