The US CDC and the rest of us didn’t understand the contagion parameters for COVID-19 in the early weeks and masks were not thought to be effective unless they were N-95 masks that trap most of the virus when the wearer inhales or exhales. Now we know better.
We noticed that the intensity and duration of exposure to virus was related to the severity of infection. Healthcare workers who spent long shifts almost constantly in the presence of infected persons were at high risk. People exposed briefly, or at low levels, less at risk. So it appears that a guiding principle is to do all possible to reduce the time we are exposed, and to reduce the concentration of virus.
Problem is, about 40% of those who are shedding virus don’t have symptoms and don’t know they are contagious. If all wear masks, those silently infected are containing a large percentage of the contaminated droplets they exhale in the mask. Likewise, those who are not infected, are trapping some of the virus before it reaches their nose and mouth.
Add to these precautions careful hand washing, care not to touch one’s face, and social distancing measures and you have a very effective strategy for reducing contagion.
We cooperate to the common good of all concerned. Wearing a mask is a badge that says I care.
Read my opinion piece in The Generalist.