Masks slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2 by reducing how much infected people spray the virus into the environment around them when they cough or talk. Evidence from laboratory experiments, hospitals, and whole countries shows that masks work, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends face coverings for the U.S. public. With all this evidence, mask-wearing has become the norm in many places.
It might just be the difference between ending up at the hospital and not even realizing you’re infected
I am an infectious disease doctor and a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. As governments and workplaces began to recommend or mandate mask-wearing, my colleagues and I noticed an interesting trend. In places where most people wore masks, those who did get infected seemed dramatically less likely to get severely ill compared to places with less mask-wearing.
Exposure dose determines the severity of the disease
When you wear a mask – even a cloth mask – you typically are exposed to a lower dose of the coronavirus than if you didn’t. Both recent experiments in animal models using coronavirus and nearly a hundred years of viral research show that lower viral doses usually means less severe disease.
It seems people get less sick if they wear a mask.
No mask is perfect, and wearing one might not prevent you from getting infected. But it might be the difference between a case of Covid-19 that sends you to the hospital and a case so mild you don’t even realize you’re infected.