Do Masks Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus?

By Maura Philis on 08/21/2020

Some do. Some do not!

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, the CDC promoted wearing effective face masks to prevent Coronavirus spread. Asymptomatic people, those who do not show symptoms, and pre-symptomatic people, those who eventually develop symptoms, can spread the virus through their respiratory droplets without knowing it. These circumstances prompted the serious recommendation for masks.

A mask can stop coronavirus spread from the wearer to others but does not protect the wearer from the virus. Wearing a face mask in public and when physical distancing isn’t possible protects others and plays an important part in the pandemic. Face masks don’t include medical masks, like the n95 masks, as those should be reserved for healthcare workers and first responders.

The CDC and other sources explain how to make your own effective face mask or recommend ones for purchase.

However, new research from the CDC and Duke University show popular options that don’t work as effective face masks.

    ValveMask

  • Valve Mask
  • Construction workers rely on N95 valve masks to prevent dust inhalation. The valve doesn’t prevent your breath and droplets from moving outward. This type of mask protects you but doesn’t prevent coronavirus spread to others.

  • Single Layer Neck Gaiter
  • NeckGaiter

    Many athletes choose a neck fleece for comfort and many people use it today for the same reason. However, a single layer, polyester neck fleece doesn’t provide much protection compared to cloth masks. Choosing a neck gaiter with multiple fabrics and layers is the better option.

  • Thin Bandanas and Scarfs
  • Bandana

    These provide little protection due to the amount of leakage around and through the thin material, which reduces mask efficiency. If you hold a bandana or scarf up to a light and light easily shines through, the material is too thin.


Because these materials may do more harm than good, the CDC recommends a breathable face mask, which you can buy or make. Masks reduce transmission when they meet these requirements:

  • Tightly woven fabric (ex: linen or cotton masks)
  • Covers your nose and mouth
  • Fits under your chin
  • A snug, comfortable seal along the edges
  • Two or more layers
  • Washable

At the beginning of the pandemic, surgical masks were not recommended for the general public. Now that they’ve become more available, they provide a single use, effective face mask.

In addition to wearing a breathable face mask, following these preventative practices help reduce the spread of Covid-19:

  • Social distancing of at least 6 feet
  • Frequent handwashing with soap and water for 20 seconds
  • Use hand sanitizer with 60-70% alcohol if soap and water aren’t available
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces

While we wait for a vaccine from public health and health care officials, staying up to date with the latest information and doing our part offers the best options to stop Coronavirus spread.

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