Latest CDC Mask Recommendations Spur Multiple Employer Appeals 

29 Dec, 2023 F.J. Thomas


Sarasota, FL ( – Earlier this fall the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced their new proposal for safety protocols on infection control in hospitals and the use of masks. The new proposal backed by the HICPAC federal advisory board drew an enormous amount of criticism in the form of over 1,000 angry letters from healthcare experts. In response to the outcry, the CDC announced they would be taking input from the public after HICPAC sent its final recommendations to the CDC in November.

In early November, the CDC and HICPAC met to discuss the recommendations that will not be final until the CDC approves them, after which they will be published in the federal register and open for 60 days of public comment. HICPAC will have a chance to review the comments, and amend the recommendations for a vote. 

Ambiguity of the type of mask has been one of the biggest criticisms of the HICPAC advisements. While the recommendations  state that healthcare workers should wear masks, they do not identify what type of mask should be used, leaving the requirement fully open to interpretation. 

Such lack of clear guidance by the CDC has been a catalyst of multiple legal appeals in California, according to a recent report from Medscape. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, known as Cal/OSHA, has clear requirements that specifically require healthcare employers to provide N95 masks for staff that may be exposed to diseases that may be airborne. 

Based on the guidelines which specify the requirement of an N95 mask, Cal/OSHA has issued multiple citations for those employers who did not abide by the guideline. Employers that have been issued fines are now appealing in court using the most recent CDC recommendations as the platform for their arguments. 

In November, Cal/OSHA deputy chief Eric Berg forewarned that if adopted the new CDC guidelines would create confusion about mask requirements, in addition to putting healthcare workers at risk by employers not providing adequate protection.

In the November meeting, the CDC referred to reviews of multiple medical studies they had gathered on the effectiveness of N95 masks.  The overall conclusion of those studies was that regular surgical masks were just as effective as N95 masks during “routine” care of patients. 

With an uptick in the number of COVID cases, and the large number of employer citations all over the country for not providing appropriate mask protection for workers, it will be interesting to see what route the CDC recommendations will take, and what ultimate legal impact they will have. 

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    About The Author

    • F.J. Thomas

      F.J. Thomas has worked in healthcare business for more than fifteen years in Tennessee. Her experience as a contract appeals analyst has given her an intimate grasp of the inner workings of both the provider and insurance world. Knowing first hand that the industry is constantly changing, she strives to find resources and information you can use.

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