You Still Probably Don’t Need A Mask For COVID-19

Why most public health bodies still don’t recommend masks for the general public

Gideon M-K; Health Nerd


Pictured: Probably not necessary. Also, the most amazing blue eyes Source: Pexels

Edit 2: Updated 5/04/2020 as the US CDC has shifted their recommendations in light of new evidence to recommend the use of cloth face-masks in public situations. The World Health Organization has changed their stance slightly, although remain largely neutral on face mask wearing. The article has been updated to reflect the new evidence — this is still largely about the inconsistency addressed in point 3.

Edit: Updated 2/04/2020 as the lead author of the only RCT on cloth masks has described their use as a “last resort”, given the plausible evidence from this trial that they may in some cases increase the risk of infection and/or transmissibility of the virus from people who themselves are sick.

Note: at the outset, I will admit that I am primarily a chronic disease epidemiologist. While I am happy to use my expertise to explain the evidence to you, the final word as ever should come from the experts, such as your local health authority or the World Health Organization.

In times of coronavirus, nothing is more contentious than the question of masks. There are dozens of conflicting opinions online, from the poorly-researched yelling on twitter to the much more informed arguments on, well, also twitter, as well as numerous articles published in almost every media source in the world with an opinion.

We’ve heard everything from “you don’t need a mask” to the wonderful “they might be better than nothing” from the New York Times, which is a beautifully encouraging message about the evidence for mask use.

So it makes sense that most people are still confused. Will a mask protect you? Are they necessary for average people to wear in their day-to-day life? And, most importantly, if you don’t wear a mask, what should you be doing to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus?

And, of course, if you are going to wear a mask, how best to accessorize? Source: Pexels

One thing to mention at the outset — the word “mask” covers a range of sins. I’ll mostly be talking here about two…