The CDC has since changed its guidelines as the coronavirus has spread. It now “recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household.” You can find our latest mask coverage here.
It’s boom time for mask manufacturers: Thanks to the new coronavirus that began in Wuhan, China, mask prices have spiked on Amazon, with reports of hoarding, and many sellers are out of stock. Meanwhile, East Coasters from Boston to New Haven are cropping up in subways and cafés in masks. Really, you don’t need to join this poorly informed craze. Here’s why:
- Just do what you normally do during flu season. Coronavirus is looking roughly similar to flu in how it spreads, as well as its fatality rates. Flu is a much bigger risk to you: It has already infected 15 million and killed 10,000-25,000 Americans this flu season. Do you wear masks? No. Just wash your hands often, don’t touch your face, and avoid ill people, as the CDC suggests.
- Masks don’t protect you. Here is an excellent explanation of why.
- Cloth masks really don’t protect you. Cloth masks don’t block small particles. The sort of mask that does is an N95 respirator, which filters out 95% of smaller air particles and is often specially fitted for healthcare workers. I wore one during last summer’s forest fires, and it feels like suffocating in a moist, overheated shell through which you are unable to suck in enough air when, say, walking. It’s uncomfortable AF. You will take it off.
- You’re causing a healthcare worker mask shortage. The people who do need masks are the healthcare workers who are being coughed on by patients who may well have coronavirus; research shows that masks effectively protect them. Let hospitals and healthcare workers have the damn masks.