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November 2, 2020

From Gen Z to boomers: Who's wearing masks and social distancing?

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    People have steadily been wearing masks in public more often since April, according to a recent CDC Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report, but other Covid-19 mitigation behaviors, such as social distancing, are becoming less common.

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    For the report, CDC conducted three separate surveys in April, May, and June that included more than 2,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and older.

    The agency found that, overall, mask-wearing increased between the April and June surveys, from 78.1% in April to 88.7% in June. However, mask-wearing varied by age. Adults ages 18-29 were the least likely to wear masks in each month, with 86.1% reporting wearing a mask in June, compared with 69.6% in April.

    Meanwhile, adults 60 and older were the most likely to wear a mask in each month, with 92.4% reporting wearing a mask in June, compared with 83.7% in April.

    While more people were likely to wear masks in June than in April, CDC found people's practice of other Covid-19 mitigation measures decreased over time, including::

    • Washing or sanitizing hands;
    • Maintaining six feet of distance;
    • Canceling/postponing pleasure, social, or recreational activities;
    • Avoiding public or crowded places; and
    • Avoiding some or all restaurants.

    In each category, adults over age 60 were the most likely to practice the Covid-19 mitigation behavior, while adults ages 18-29 were the least likely to take Covid-19 precautions. Overall, most respondents said they engaged in most or all of the recommended Covid-19 mitigation behaviors, with 80.6% saying they engaged in at least four of the six behaviors.


    The researchers wrote that the report's findings "underscore the need to prioritize clear, targeted messaging and behavior modification interventions, especially for younger adults, to encourage uptake and support maintenance of recommended mitigation behaviors proven to slow the spread of Covid-19."

    They added that young people may be less likely to engage in the recommended behaviors because of "social, developmental, and practical factors."

    Thomas Frieden, former CDC director, said "[t]here's more we must do to reduce infection," but added that the increase in mask-wearing is "astounding … from 0% in less than eight months" (Stein, "Shots," NPR, 10/27; Hutchins et. al., CDC MMWR, 10/27).

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