Coronavirus Face Masks & Protection FAQs

While researchers continue to learn more about the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, it is extremely important to maintain safety measures until a vaccine is ready. Wearing a face mask is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of the virus. Other important measures are practicing physical distancing and washing your hands frequently with soap and water or using hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Lisa Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H., an expert in infection prevention, answers questions about face masks.

Should I wear a face mask or covering for coronavirus protection?
Yes, if you are in a public place where you will encounter other people, you should wear a mask. Face masks help contain respiratory droplets that can transmit SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, from people who do not know they have the virus.

For example, when inside an office, store, restaurant or school, or when on public transportation, you should wear a mask. The only exceptions are times when you are alone or with your family, such as if you are in your office with the door closed or in your car.

When you are outdoors walking or exercising near others, it is also important to wear a mask.

At Johns Hopkins Medicine, we currently require everyone entering our facilities to wear a mask, except for children under age 2.

Can wearing a face mask prevent coronavirus from spreading?
Yes, face masks help prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. If you are infected with the coronavirus and do not know it, a mask is very good at keeping your respiratory droplets and particles from infecting others. A mask can also be somewhat effective in preventing germs from getting into your nose and mouth that come from another person’s respiratory droplets.

Some people who have COVID-19 only experience mild symptoms or none at all, and they can spread the coronavirus to others before they realize they have it. They may think they have allergies, a cold or the flu. (It’s initially hard to tell the difference between COVID-19 and the flu without a test.) The coronavirus can spread through droplets and particles released into the air by speaking, singing, coughing or sneezing — that is why masks are now required or recommended in most indoor public places.

Wearing a mask is especially important to protect people around you who have risk factors for severe consequences of COVID-19. These include people over age 65 and those living with heart disease, diabetes, obesity, chronic lung disease, immunity problems or cancer.

What’s the right way to wear a face mask?
Your mask should cover your face from the bridge of your nose to under your chin. It should be loose fitting but secure enough to stay in place. Make sure you can talk with your mask on and that it doesn’t irritate you, so you are not tempted to touch it or pull it out of place, which could limit its effectiveness or put you at risk from touching your face.


Share this post