Frequently Asked Questions

According to most of the research done since the pandemic began, the answer is yes. Not every mask has the same effectiveness, and at least one kind of face covering (neck gaiters) might actually make it easier to spread the coronavirus. But oodles and oodles of research has shown that wearing a mask almost certainly decreases the coronavirus case rates and, thus, decreases the number of people who die from COVID-19. It’s not impossible to get infected with the coronavirus if you’re wearing a mask, but it’s much less likely.

The reason why masks work if they’re worn properly is because they keep the respiratory droplets that transmit the coronavirus from leaving your mouth and prevent other people’s droplets from infecting your own mouth and nose. The proper way to wear a mask is to make sure it covers the nose and the mouth, fits snugly across the face without any openings, and is worn even if a person doesn’t show symptoms.

Maybe. If you touched the front of your mask without washing your hands beforehand, it might not be a great idea, and if the mask is wet, dirty, or damaged, you should discard it and procure a fresh one. But if you’ve followed the CDC guidelines, which recommends you handle the mask by the ear loops or straps and fold the corners of the mask together, you can reuse your mask after you’ve taken it off.

That’s not advisable. But sometimes, your mask might fall underneath your nose or may move up to cover the bottom of your eyes, so an adjustment is necessary. If you have to adjust your mask, wash or sanitize your hands before and after you touch the front of the mask. One goal when putting on your mask in the first place is to make sure it fits properly so an adjustment is unnecessary.

The N95 has been shown to provide the most protection, because it filters out at least 95% of the articles in the air. But they’re mostly worn by healthcare workers, and they aren’t always easy to find (and they also feel the most stifling to wear). If an N95 isn’t available, the next best options are a surgical mask or a cloth mask that has multiple layers. That includes a homemade mask, especially if it’s made out of tightly-woven cotton. Whatever you wear, make sure it covers your nose and your mouth. There are masks you should avoid, though. Those include masks with an exhalation valve because of the potential for releasing unfiltered air into the environment, bandanas, and neck gaiters.

According to studies, masks worn indoors have been shown to protect people who live in the same household as a person infected with the coronavirus. If you’re inside with other people who are not in your household bubble and you can’t keep six feet of distance, a mask is highly advisable and will provide an extra layer of protection. But if you’re socializing with others, it’s always best to do it outside (while still wearing a mask) where there’s better air ventilation.

The CDC has noted the following who shouldn’t wear a face covering:

  • Children younger than 2 years old
  • Anyone who has trouble breathing
  • Anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance

But there is a gray area for other people as well, including those who have facial deformities that make wearing a mask impossible or uncomfortable, those who have a sensory processing disorder, those who have a chronic pulmonary illness, or those who are in the hard of hearing or deaf communities.