Context Matters

SARS-CoV-2 spreads through both droplet and aerosol transmission (airborne). Imagine sharing a room with people and there is a distinct smell of body odor in the room. It could be from the person standing right next to you; it could also be from someone on the complete opposite side of the room, or even someone who was in the room but left before you entered! Similar to the odors, viruses linger in the air, however as colorless and odorless gases. High-efficiency masks will protect you from airborne transmission (which in turn protect you from droplet transmission as well)!

Indoors

Social distancing indoors is not always effective in preventing infection from SARS-CoV-2. We recommend wearing high-efficiency masks when you are indoors with other people, especially in a confined space with poor ventilation. Because SARS-CoV-2 can linger in the air for hours since it was last exhaled, it is still possible to get infected even after the infected person has left the room. Indoor settings pose the highest risk of contracting this virus.

Although popular, basic masks and other types of face coverings (such as bandanas and those made from cotton) should be seen as a last resort, it is better than nothing! This holds true for whatever indoor space you find yourself in without a high-efficiency mask, whether it be a quick taxi ride or a short encounter with a gas-station clerk. Every minute spent in those places without proper masking increases your risk of infection.

Outdoors

When you are in outdoor settings, say in nature or a park, whether you decide on wearing a mask is dependent on how many people are in your proximity. Depending on the SARS-Cov-2 variant present in your region, it will often be the case that you don’t need a mask at all; getting direct access to fresh air is important for your respiratory health! The efficiency of your face mask is context dependent. For instance, if you are taking a stroll in a spacious park, a cloth mask might suffice. However, if you are walking down the busy streets of NYC, you will need a high-efficiency mask, seeing as you are in close proximity to far more people.