What are the current masking guidelines?
In most parts of the country, the recommendations for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people are now very similar.
When unvaccinated people should wear a mask:
Indoor spaces – Anytime you're indoors in a public space.
Traveling – When using public transportation.
Outdoors – You may consider wearing a mask if you're going to a crowded outdoor event. But in general, you don't need to wear a mask outdoors.
When vaccinated people should wear a mask:
Depending on where you live, if you've been vaccinated against COVID-19, the need for a face covering may vary. If you live in an area that has substantial or high COVID-19 transmission rates, you should wear a mask when:
Indoors – Anytime you're indoors in a public space.
Traveling – When using public transportation.
Outdoors – In general, you don't need to wear a mask outdoors. If you’re planning to attend an indoor gathering where there might be people without immunity against COVID-19, such as a party at someone else’s house, then you could wear a face coverings for protection. Wearing a mask even when outdoors can be an especially good idea if you live with people who are immunocompromised or haven't gotten the vaccine – for example, young children who aren't yet eligible.
Why wearing a mask is the most important thing we can do to stop the spread of COVID?
Messages regarding the need for people to wear masks during the COVID-19 outbreak have sometimes been unclear.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped life as we know it. Many of us are staying home, avoiding people on the street, and changing daily habits, like going to school or work, in ways we never imagined.
As we change our habits, there are new behaviors we need to learn.
Your mask helps protect those around you
COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets. Respiratory droplets travel into the air when you cough, sneeze, talk, shout or sing. These droplets can then land in the mouths or noses of people who are near you or they may breathe these droplets in.
Masks are a simple barrier to help prevent your respiratory droplets from reaching others. Studies show that masks reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth.
You should wear a mask, even if you do not feel sick. This is because several studies have found that infected people with COVID-19 who never develop symptoms (asymptomatic) and those who are not yet showing symptoms (pre-symptomatic) can still spread the virus to other people. Wearing a mask helps protect those around you, in case you are infected but not showing symptoms.
You need to wear a face mask when you are inside with people you don't live with and when you can not keep at least six feet away from them because coronavirus spreads mainly through person-to-person contact.
Your mask offers some protection to you
A mask also offers some protection to you too. How well it protects you from breathing in the virus likely depends on the fabrics used and how your mask is made (such as the type of fabric, the number of layers of fabric, and how well the mask fits)
Although the CDC recommends masks made of two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric, surgical masks have been shown to be more effective than cloth masks at filtering out smaller particles. (Surgical masks are sometimes called medical masks or medical procedure masks.)
Certainly, the ability of specialized, disposable masks like the N95 respirator and the equivalent FFP-2 respirator mask in Europe to filter out particles from the air is high.
NIOSH approved N respirators
N95 respirators are critical supplies that should be prioritized for healthcare workers and other medical first responders to prevent supply shortages.
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Note: N95 respirators approved by CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) should be prioritized for Health Care Workers.
Some people who don't show any signs of having COVID-19 might be spreading the disease. It is estimated that 40% of persons with COVID-19 are asymptomatic but potentially able to transmit the virus to others.
It's important to understand that wearing a mask is not a substitute for social distancing but it can slow down the development of new COVID-19 cases and reduce the risk of overwhelming the health care system.
So, wearing a mask in certain situations makes it even less likely that you'll get or spread COVID-19 after getting your COVID-19 vaccine.