The controversy rages across the US and the world: to wear a mask or not to wear a mask, and: a cloth mask or a surgical mask. No mask is totally fool proof, but for some reason the message is having a difficult time getting through to many people.
First off, the mask is not to keep the wearer from contracting the COVID-19 virus if exposed. Rather, its meant to act in the opposite direction. By this I mean, its meant to catch the droplet spray of the wearer. So if a person is asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic, and if they are coughing, sneezing or gesticulating actively, the mask is meant to retard the droplet volume that they are putting out into the air in front of them. It won't stop all of the droplet spray, but multiple experiments over the last six months have demonstrated a reduction in probability of exposing another person from 17% (w/o mask) to around 3% (with mask). SARS-COvid-19 viruses are smaller than the majority of pore spaces in most cloth masks. But the mask serves to catch most of the droplet spray, reducing your chances of infecting someone else significantly, unless prolonged exposure in close quarters is experienced. In casual, short term, socially spacing situations, the mask, cloth or surgical, is positively beneficial.
As a citizen of any society, it is incumbent that as a member of that society we recognize a degree of responsibility for others in that society. It doesn't mean that we have to be our brother's keeper. Rather it means that we recognize that by cooperating and practicing mask wearng and social distancing, we will cooperatively work to minimize the spread, the fatalities, and work to gain control over the virus that much sooner.
Below is an excerpt fro tbe CDC guideline on mask wearing (URL provided after excerpt).
Q. Why is the CDC recommending that people wear cloth masks in public?
A. The reason to do this, even though they're not quite the same efficacy as medical masks, is that they do have some level of efficacy. They are not only a way of decreasing breathing in the virus, primarily through large respiratory droplets, but also a behavioral reminder that there's a pandemic and life is not the same right now ― and a reminder not to put our hands in our eyes nose or mouth until we've washed our hands.
If I had COVID-19, I might not even know it. It's not like I'm sneezing and coughing, and have a fever. It's apparent that you can transmit the virus when you are asymptomatic or presymptomatic. So in that case, we're preventing me from exhaling the virus or respiratory particulate matter out onto the public and into the air where others might get infected. The other side of the coin, if you will, is protecting those who are not infected from becoming infected by breathing in air contaminated with virus or respiratory particulate matter.
Q. What's the difference between cloth masks and medical masks, such as an N95 mask?
A. The idea behind an N95 mask is it has a filtering ability down to, and actually below, the size of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. So the coronavirus is about 0.12 microns in diameter and N95 (masks) protect down to 0.1 microns, with 95% efficiency, which is where it gets its name.
We don't want the public to think that the recommendation is for medical masking. That would be detrimental to us as a society, health care providers and patients who are sick with the disease need those masks