When the pandemic first started in the nation, face masks were strictly recommended for health care professionals. Masks weren’t advised to the public early on because of the anticipated shortages of masks for health care professionals. Since states are beginning to reopen, medical covers and cloth face coverings are a common sight when venturing out in public amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Most states are requiring them as a part of their reopening plans, and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention advocates their use. There are several different masks available, ranging from basic cloth masks and surgical masks to higher-grade respirator masks. The respirator masks, like the N95, are recommended for front-line medical staff and are not necessary for public use.

What masks are recommended for the public?

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not explicitly advocate the use of surgical masks. It does, however, advise the use of simple cloth face covering, which can be made from common household materials, to slow the spread of the virus and prevent people who have the virus and not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth masks are cheap and straightforward to make, and instructions are easy to find online. These masks should be worn in public, where social distancing measures are challenging to maintain, such as grocery stores. Although wearing masks in public is advised, how helpful are they really protecting us?

Are masks protecting us?

Covering the mouth and nose with cloth masks can trap infectious droplets that are expelled when the wearer is speaking, coughing, or sneezing, and can be used to prevent you from getting infected or infecting someone else. However, masks are not 100 percent protective, but it is better to wear one than not wear one at all. It is important to note that masks are not a replacement for social distancing. Wearing masks should not be the only preventive measures people take. It should be coupled with other means for control or preventing the spread of the pandemic, like washing hands and social distancing.

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, face masks were only recommended for health care professionals. Afraid of a shortage, it was not recommended for the public to wear masks. While the CDC still advocates respirator masks for only health care professionals, the use of cloth face masks has been recommended for the people. As the U.S. begins to reopen, we see some states require businesses to wear masks. While masks are not 100 percent protective, they are still a valuable tool that can be used to control and prevent the spread of the coronavirus.