For months as the COVID-19 crisis grew and masks disappeared from store shelves, U.S. health officials have agreed. The virus is believed to spread mostly through droplets from coughs or sneezes, and thus the main advice has been to keep your distance — staying 6 feet away — in addition to frequent hand-washing and not touching your face. Health workers who may be doing procedures that generate tinier particles are supposed to get high priority for tight-fitting filtering masks.
“Seriously people – STOP BUYING MASKS!” Surgeon General Jerome Adams wrote in a February 29 tweet. “They are not effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk.”
But mask-wearing has long been common in some countries during respiratory outbreaks, especially in parts of Asia.