Face masks can play a role in preventing the infection, but that role is limited. A healthy individual in a normal situation does not need to wear a mask, as per CDC recommendations. A face mask is not the ideal solution for protection from the new coronavirus for the following reasons:
- A surgical mask does not fit tightly over the nose and mouth.
- It is not possible to prevent airborne virus infection.
- It is difficult to keep a mask on for long periods of time.
- When you touch the mask, you lose the protection and must replace the mask, and dispose of it safely.
A surgical face mask is highly recommended for people who have the coronavirus infection or have a high risk of exposure. It offers a certain amount of protection against infection from your own hands or droplets from the cough or sneeze of an infected person. You should wear a face mask if
- You are infected and sick with the virus,
- You are caring for a person infected with the virus,
- You are a health worker, or
- You are in contact with infected people for any other reason.
It is essential that caregivers dispose of the mask after every interaction and use a new one any time they are in close confines with an infected person.
People who care for infected people in a medical setting wear an N95 respirator, a mask with a special air filter designed to protect one from tiny airborne particles.
These masks are designed to fit a person's face and are usually rounded in shape. Medical personnel receives special training to fit them properly so they do not breathe around the edges of the mask and defeat its purpose. These N95 masks are not recommended for the general public.