Face masks are only worth wearing in high-risk situations.

So if you’ve got COVID-19, you should be wearing a face mask so your droplets from your sneezing and coughing don’t go onto surfaces or onto somebody else. And if you’re a healthcare worker, or somebody working with people who are likely to have COVID-19, then you should be wearing a face mask too.

You don’t get COVID-19 by just breathing the air around you so face masks, in general, don’t help you there. You don’t need them for that. You get COVID-19 from touching a surface in which there have been droplets and the virus can last on there for about 4 days, maybe even longer. Or, you get it directly from droplets by being close to somebody with COVID-19. But you don’t catch it from the air.

And while trials have shown that the fancy masks with the respirator are better than ordinary surgical masks, when they’ve looked at them in real life and how people actually use them, poorly fitted and so on, surgical masks are just as good as the respirator masks.

Last Reviewed: 06/07/2020