upper waypoint

How Do Masks Really Help Us?

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again

In the earlier days of the coronavirus pandemic, there was a lot more confusion about whether people should wear masks to protect themselves and others from the virus. Here’s why recommendations have changed – even for kids and teens – and how they help keep COVID-19 in check.

TEACHERS: Get your students in the discussion on KQED Learn, a safe place for middle and high school students to investigate controversial topics and share their voices. Download lesson plan and get started on KQED Learn.

Why did the Centers for Disease Control change its guidance on wearing masks?

Initially, there were concerns that if the public were instructed to wear masks, there wouldn’t be enough surgical masks or N95 respirators for health care workers. There’s also a clearer understanding of how the coronavirus spreads, and that pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic transmission is possible. That’s when you might be contagious but don’t know it – and might unknowingly infect someone else. So wearing a mask helps cut down the risk for everyone.

If we’re social distancing, do we still need to wear masks?

Yes – respiratory droplets carrying the virus can travel much further than 6 feet, and since we don’t always maintain 6 or more feet of distance — it’s better to take this precaution, along with washing your hands and watching your distance when possible.


Does the type of mask you wear matter?

While some masks are more effective than others, some experts suggest that the best mask is one that’s both comfortable and that you’ll wear consistently. Any mask that covers your nose and mouth will have some benefit, although N95 masks with valves won’t protect others around you.


Centers for Disease Control https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html

World Health Organization https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/when-and-how-to-use-masks

It’s Okay to Be Smart (How Well Do Masks Work? (Schlieren Imaging In Slow Motion!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Tp0zB904Mc

It’s Okay to Be Smart (COVID-19 & Mask Myths DEBUNKED!) https://youtu.be/npXP5wqNzaI

PBS Newshour

NPR (A User’s Guide To Masks: What’s Best At Protecting Others (And Yourself)





lower waypoint
next waypoint