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Mask Essentials Part 1: Why, Where, & When Should I Wear a Mask?

In order to spread awareness about the importance of wearing a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have prepared a series of articles designed to provide essential information and guidelines so that you can get the most out of your mask.

Mask Essentials Part 1: Why, Where, & When Should I Wear a Mask?

As COVID-19 continues to affect our communities, it is important to understand how wearing masks can help stem the spread and keep you safe while performing everyday tasks.

Why Should I Wear A Mask?

COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus known to spread through person-to-person contact and respiratory droplets. Any time a person talks, laughs, sneezes, or coughs, respiratory droplets are released and can travel through the air, landing on people or objects nearby.  By wearing a mask, you can lower the possibility of spreading your own respiratory droplets to other people as well as help strengthen the barrier between you and the respiratory droplets of others. This is especially important as COVID-19 may spread through asymptomatic individuals; wearing a mask can contain expelled droplets and prevent infected people from unintentionally spreading the virus to those in their community.

In order to slow the spread of COVID-19, masks are most effective when worn by a majority (over 80%) of the population. Studies from labs and epidemiologic data support the efficacy of masks in blocking respiratory droplets and slowing the spread of viruses; evidence shows that populations with cultural norms or policies favoring mask-wearing displayed lower infection and death rates over time compared to those without. By playing your part in wearing a mask, you can help those around you stay safe, lower your chances of infection, and slow the spread of COVID-19.

When and Where Should I Wear a Mask?

Wearing a mask is recommended at all times in public spaces, both indoors and outdoors. For reasons noted above, it is not always possible to know whether or not anyone, including yourself, is carrying the virus. Thus, when around other people, masks should be worn as a precautionary measure to prevent spreading and coming into contact with infected respiratory droplets.

Understandably, there are some conditions and situations in which wearing a mask may not be feasible, such as when doing so may exacerbate certain medical conditions or present significant safety concerns. In such cases, the CDC provides a number of alternatives (including further enforced distancing) that one may follow in order to reduce your risks and maintain a similar level of protection. You may find the list here.

It should be noted that mask-wearing does not completely (100%) prevent any individual from contracting COVID-19, but rather helps to drastically reduce the risk of spreading it. In order to further increase the efficacy of mask-wearing, it should be accompanied by appropriate social distancing and sanitary measures, such as keeping at least 6 feet distance from other people and proper hand-washing.

By doing our part in wearing a mask and following proper safety measures, we can work together and safely overcome the challenges presented by COVID-19.