COVID-19: Should You Wear a Mask?

On April 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made a national recommendation:

"CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission."

The CDC made clear the general public should be using cloth face coverings, explaining surgical masks or N-95 respirators need to be reserved for healthcare workers and first responders. The CDC also emphasizes the continued importance of maintaining six feet of distance from others whenever possible.

Can Medical Masks Prevent Viral Infections?

This recommendation follows city-specific guidelines issued a few days earlier in Los Angeles and New York, in which mayors advised residents to cover their faces with articles of clothing like scarves and bandanas if they must go out.

The idea behind these recommendations is that seemingly healthy people should be covering their faces when out in public to prevent unknowingly sharing COVID-19 since even people with no symptoms can spread the disease. People who have symptoms or are known to have tested positive should already be in isolation and/or be wearing face coverings to stop the spread of the disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) stopped short of changing its own recommendation on face coverings for the general public, but leaders said in an April 3 media briefing that they understand and support community-level guidance in favor of face coverings. WHO says only healthcare workers and people who are sick or caring for someone who is sick need to wear face masks.