How well do face masks protect against COVID-19?

2023-04-29

Can face masks help slow the spread of the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)? Yes. Face masks combined with other preventive measures, such as getting vaccinated, frequent hand-washing and physical distancing, can help slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends masks for the general public. If you're in an area with a high number of people with COVID-19 in the hospital and new COVID-19 cases, the CDC recommends wearing a well-fitted mask indoors in public, whether or not you're vaccinated.

The CDC says that you should wear the most protective mask possible that you'll wear regularly, fits well and is comfortable. Respirators such as nonsurgical N95s give the most protection. KN95s and medical masks provide the next highest level of protection. Cloth masks provide less protection. The CDC says that surgical N95 masks should be reserved for health care providers.

If you have a weakened immune system or have a higher risk of serious illness, wear a mask that provides you with the most protection possible when you're in an area with a high number of people with COVID-19 in the hospital and new COVID-19 cases. Check with your healthcare provider to see if you should wear a mask when you're in an area with a lower number of new COVID-19 cases and people with COVID-19 in the hospital.