COVID-19 is spread primarily from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks, or raises their voice (eg, by screaming, chanting, or singing). These droplets can end up in the mouth or nose of those around or possibly be inhaled and reach the lungs. Recent studies show that a significant number of people with COVID-19 do not have symptoms (they are “asymptomatic”), and that even those who later present symptoms (they are “presymptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before manifesting symptoms.
To reduce the spread of COVID-19, the CDC recommends wearing face masks in public spaces and when in contact with people who do not live at home, especially when other recommended social distancing measures are difficult to take.
Why is it important to wear a mask?
Masks could help prevent those with COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others. Wearing a mask helps protect those around you, including those who are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 and workers who have frequent close contact with other people (for example, in stores and restaurants). Masks are very likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when people use them widely in public settings. The spread of COVID-19 can be reduced through the use of masks, along with other preventive measures, including social distancing, frequent hand washing, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.
The masks recommended in this document are not surgical or respiratory masks. Today these are critical supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and emergency responders. Masks are not personal protective equipment (PPE). They are not suitable replacements for PPE such as respirators (such as N95 respirators) or medical masks (such as surgical masks) in workplaces where the use of masks or respirators is recommended or required to protect who uses them.