I’ll explain whether you should wear a mask for the novel coronavirus and why the debate has been complicated.
The short answer is yes, make or buy a reusable cloth mask, wash it and wear it regularly.
- Wearing a mask properly reduces your risk of contracting COVID-19. Crucially, if you already have the disease, it decreases the change you will spread the coronavirus to other people.
- For the purpose of preventing COVID-19, any brand new mask is probably better than no mask, since it’s primarily spread through liquid droplets.
- Wearing masks properly includes not touching anything other than the ear straps, and changing to a new mask regularly. Use of the mask degrades its effectiveness.
- The outcome of wearing a mask improperly is neither well studied nor well understood, it may help, hurt, or have no effect in different circumstances.
- Wearing a mask is not a substitute for social distancing, which includes maintaining 6 feet of distance from other people at all times.
- The supply of masks is limited and as a result health care workers in many places don’t have enough masks to use them properly. If health care workers become infected it can lead to a catastrophic outcome because they easily become super-spreaders.
- Advice from various authorities to not wear a mask made sense because the supply is limited and it needs to be reserved for health care workers.
- Advice to make your own mask, wear and wash it regularly also makes sense because while we don’t know much about this approach, it’s probably better than nothing.