Should you wear a mask in public?

  • The CDC officially recommends you wear a cloth mask in public
  • The WHO changed its guidance on April 6
  • Masks are only effective if you are also washing your hands

The CDC recommended on April 3, after days of contemplation, that people should wear cloth masks in public to help keep them safe from COVID-19 and to prevent people who don’t know they have the virus from spreading it.

At that time, the World Health Organization still recommended that healthy people not wear a mask unless they were taking care of somebody who is sick, but on April 6, the organization changed its recommendations, writing that “wearing a medical mask is one of the prevention measures that can limit the spread of certain respiratory viral diseases, including COVID-19.”

“The virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms,” the CDC said. “In light of this new evidence, 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.”

President Donald Trump said March 30 that the White House was weighing whether to advise all Americans to wear a mask when they’re outside. “We are not going to be wearing masks forever, but it could be for a short period of time after we get back into gear,” Trump said. “I could see something like that happening for a period of time.” On April 2, Trump said if the White House makes a recommendation, it most likely wouldn’t be mandatory.

On April 3, Trump said he wouldn’t wear a mask despite the CDC recommendation.

As far as personal protective equipment goes, masks are the most easily recognizable to the general public. However, the WHO advises that if you choose to wear medical masks, they are only effective if you wash your hands before putting them on, leave no gaps between the mask and your mouth so that it is flush to your face, and touch it as little as possible. As soon as the mask is damp, it should be replaced. 

To properly dispose of a mask, remove it from behind without touching the front. Masks should be disposed of into a closed bin immediately, and you should wash your hands before putting on a fresh one. 

Sources: WHO, New York Times, CDC, CNN, Washington Post

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