Face masks help prevent COVID-19 spread. Here’s how.

Masks can work in two different ways to protect a group of individuals in the COVID-19 pandemic.

1. Protecting others

The way that COVID-19 is commonly spread is via droplets spread through the air from person to person. If I’m wearing a mask, it significantly decreases the ability for droplets to get from my mouth or nose to your mouth or nose. 

Once you’re infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, you may be shedding the virus for up to 48 hours before you even experience symptoms. 

Unfortunately, when you get the virus, you may not know right away — your body doesn’t give an immediate signal like your hair turning orange. If that were the case, we’d know who was capable of spreading the virus and could get them out of work, school or other populated areas, and prevent viral spread.

When you have that 48-hour window, wearing a mask even when you don’t know you have the virus can protect those around you from the droplets that could cause them to be infected and develop COVID-19.

2. Protecting yourself

Just as wearing a mask prevents the virus from spreading from you to other people, wearing a mask helps you if you’re around someone else who’s infected. It can prevent you from inhaling those same virus particles and getting exposed to the virus. 

In addition to wearing face masks, the best way we can prevent the spread of COVID-19 and control this pandemic is through vaccination. If you’re eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, please consider getting immunized as soon as possible.

To find a vaccine location near you, go to www.vaccines.gov

More on wearing face masks:

More on the COVID-19 vaccine:

Andrew Thomas is chief clinical officer of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and senior associate vice president for health sciences at The Ohio State University.

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