Experts Explain When and How People Should Be Wearing Face Masks

April 12, 2020
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As health officials recommend wearing face masks in public, experts begin to weigh in on when and how you should wear a mask.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended people start wearing non-medical, cloth face coverings while out in public to protect themselves.

Dr. Thomas Perls, a professor of medicine at Boston University, told CBS News that the purpose of people wearing masks is to protect others if they cough or sneeze.

Research shows that surgical masks and face coverings can also decrease the amount of "aerosolized virus the people produce by breathing and talking."

However, Dr. Perls said these masks are not foolproof.

"These coverings don't fit the face tightly, so aerosolized virus and larger droplets can be sucked in through the gaps between the face and the mask when we take a breath," Perls said.

Experts say the chance of catching the coronavirus from a person walking outside is small. Wearing a face mask or cloth is recommended for when you are indoors, going on mass transit, with other people.

Anywhere you go in public, experts say to maintain physical distancing of at least 6 feet away with no "bodily contact."

Dr. Perls suggested when you go out to the grocery store or run errands, wear a face covering and get done with whatever you are doing as fast as you can.

As for washing your face masks, experts weighed in on what people should do.

Dr. William Schaffner, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, said that while there are "no hard and fast recommendations," it's generally safe to wear one multiple times without washing it.

Joseph Fair, who is a virologist and epidemiologist, suggests people should wash their cloth face coverings after using them twice.

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