We know that wearing a face mask is important to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Now, new findings from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that wearing a mask helps protect you, the wearer, in addition to the people around you.
The CDC explains in new guidance that proper cloth masks can block virus particles that you may exhale while also blocking infectious respiratory droplets from others, preventing you from inhaling them.
Protecting Yourself While You Protect Others
The CDC looked at many studies to make this new guidance, including one study that followed people infected with coronavirus who were on an airplane for more than 10 hours without infecting anyone else when masks were used.
It’s important to note that it’s still recommended for your cloth face mask to have multiple layers of fabric for it to effectively prevent germs from coming in or out.
How Face Masks Help
The CDC advises wearing a cloth face covering to cover your nose and mouth when you must be in a public place where social distancing is a challenge, like the grocery store or pharmacy. Doing so can help prevent the spread of the virus. Some communities are also recommending wearing masks outdoors too, depending on the infection rate in the area.
We know that a significant portion of people with coronavirus doesn't have symptoms, which is called being asymptomatic. Even those who are presymptomatic — who eventually develop symptoms — can transmit the virus to others. Because you can still spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms, the CDC recommends using cloth face coverings.
Understanding Asymptomatic Spread
According to the CDC, people may be sick with the virus for one to 14 days before developing symptoms such as fever, fatigue, or a dry cough. The virus is spread primarily through respiratory droplets exhaled when you cough, sneeze, speak, or even breathe. While many people think of droplets as large, they can be very small — too small to see in the air.
The World Health Organization emphasizes that many people with COVID-19 experience very mild symptoms, especially early on when they are also most contagious. So, it’s possible to catch the virus from someone who simply has a mild cough and doesn't feel sick or from someone who feels under the weather but isn’t coughing.
The CDC says that asymptomatic or presymptomatic people who feel well are estimated to account for more than 50 percent of coronavirus transmissions.
Face Mask Hygiene
Remember to take a face mask with you every time you need to leave the house. Before putting on or removing your cloth face mask, wash your hands thoroughly to prevent any germs on your hands from spreading into your respiratory system.
To help ensure the effectiveness of your face covering, also follow these tips: