Face masks can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 – but only if everyone wears them.
As restrictions ease throughout the nation, many Americans are getting out of the house and enjoying a return to some sense of normalcy. But just because restrictions are easing doesn’t mean everything is the same as it was before the pandemic reared its ugly head. COVID-19 is here to stay – and until there’s a vaccine, it’s up to each of us to do what we can to help reduce the spread of the virus.
One of the best ways to do that is by wearing a face mask.
Why should I wear a face mask?
Wearing a cloth face mask when you’re out in public is the socially responsible thing to do right now. Face masks have been shown to lower the chance that the virus can be transmitted from person to person. This is especially important since a high percentage of people infected with COVID-19 are asymptomatic – and may spread the virus to other people without even knowing they have it.
One case cited in the Washington Post shows a real-world example of how face coverings can help slow the spread of the virus. In May, a hair stylist in Missouri who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and had symptoms but wore a face mask did not infect 84 customers who sat just inches away from her face for up to 30 minutes, according to health officials.
What’s the correct way to wear a face mask?
Not only is it important to wear a face mask, but for it to be effective, you need to wear it correctly. That means your mask should fully cover both your nose and mouth and fit snug enough to reduce transmission of your respiratory droplets without limiting your ability to breathe. Just covering your mouth while leaving your nose exposed – or wearing your face mask hanging from your chin – is not an effective way to slow the spread of the virus.
Watch the video (above) for more tips on how to properly wear a face mask.
In addition to wearing your face mask the right way, you should also avoid touching your mask or your face for your own protection – and if you do, you should wash your hands. Additionally, cloth face masks should be washed and dried regularly to keep them as clean as possible. The CDC recommends washing masks after each use in a washing machine or by hand.
Is wearing a face mask enough?
Keep in mind that although wearing a face mask is an important step in helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19, it does not take the place of social distancing. You should still stay at least 6 feet away from anyone who does not live with you, even if you have a face mask on.
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Date Last Reviewed: June 22, 2020
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD