Why should you wear a face mask?

Published: Jun. 10, 2020 at 2:35 PM EDT
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With many areas of the U.S. reopening after stay-at-home orders, many state and local governments don't want people to leave home without a mask or face-covering. Health officials say the research now shows it can continue to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Steven Hill wears a mask anytime he's out in public in Los Angeles.

"I'm totally fine with long-term wearing of masks," he said. "It's comfortable."

In April, the CDC began recommending cloth face-coverings or masks in public where maintaining social distancing is difficult. The agency cited recent studies that people can transmit the coronavirus before showing symptoms. Now, the World Health Organization has changed its stance and also recommends covering up.

"It's clear that mask-wearing is absolutely fundamental to reducing contagiousness in the population, reducing spread, flattening that curve," said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease doctor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. "It does provide some measure of protection to me also, although that's smaller. Mostly I'm protecting you, and you wearing it, protecting me."

Masks need to be worn in the correct way to be effective. The nose, mouth and chin should be covered. Once the covering is on, avoid touching the mask or your face.

Schaffner also emphasizes that masks shouldn't give the public a false sense of security.

"So wearing the mask is important, but you still have to be cautious with social distancing and good hand hygiene," he said.

Hill says he hopes more people will follow his lead and cover up.

"It's not that big of a deal," Hill said. "And if it protects me and protects the people around me from getting coronavirus, it's a no-brainer."

Experts say now that they are seeing success with face masks in reducing COVID transmission, the practice may also translate to regular mask-wearing during the winter season to prevent illnesses like the flu.

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