Masks (face coverings) are an important part of preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Masks can be used safely by nearly everyone over the age of 2 years.
There are many options of face coverings; it is important to choose one that fits well and is effective.
Yes. Masking protects you and others from transmitting COVID. Numerous studies have shown that masks can effectively prevent the spread of COVID. Schools and areas with mask mandates have been shown to have lower transmission rates than areas that do not require masking. Masking traps droplets from your nose and mouth that contain COVID viral particles so that they can’t infect others. Because it is possible to be infectious and not have any symptoms, it is important that everyone wear a mask in situations where they come into close contact with others. In addition to other strategies like physical distancing, wearing a mask plays an important role in protecting you from getting COVID from others.
Anyone who is positive for COVID-19, has symptoms or COVID-19, or has had exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask around others for at least 5 days or until symptoms resolve. Everyone over the age of 2 years should wear a mask indoors as well as in crowded outdoors spaces when community COVID-19 spread is high, regardless of vaccination status. Individuals who are at high risk for severe illness should also consider wearing a mask in these settings when community COVID-19 spread is moderate. When community spread is low, individuals may make the personal choice to wear a mask. Check the level of COVID-19 spread in your community here. Check with your state or local health department to find out whether masks are required where you live.
Most face coverings including surgical masks, cloth masks, and respirator masks (e.g. N95s) provide some level of protection against COVID transmission by blocking the release of droplets that carry viral particles from your nose and mouth. Respirator masks like N95s are worn by healthcare providers performing certain medical procedures that put them at high risk for COVID-19 exposure but they are not always available or necessary for the general public and require testing by a trained professional to make sure they are working properly. For the general public, disposable surgical masks or cloth masks can be effective in most settings. Reusable cloth masks should have at least 2 layers of fabric, completely cover your nose and mouth, and fit snugly without gaps on any side. A nose wire also helps to prevent air from leaking out and can help to keep glasses from fogging up. Single layer coverings and face shields are not effective and should be avoided.
- NYC Health: Face Coverings: Frequently Asked Questions
- CDC Guide to Choosing Face Masks
- NYS Health Advisory: COVID-19 and the Use of Cloth Face Coverings
- New York Times: A User’s Guide to Face Masks (may require login)
- AAP: “Do masks delay speech and language development?”