Visitors wearing face masks ride The New Revolution roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California on April 1, 2021 (AFP / Valerie Macon)

Face masks help prevent spread of Covid-19

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Social media posts shared thousands of times criticize the use of masks to curb the deadly Covid-19 pandemic, asking why one person should have to wear a face covering if somebody else’s works. This is misleading; according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, masks help prevent people from spreading or contracting Covid-19, and widespread use makes them more effective.

“If your mask works so well, why do I have to wear one?” conservative television personality Tomi Lahren asks in an April 10, 2020 tweet that she also shared as a screenshot on Facebook.

A screenshot of a tweet taken on April 12, 2021

The tweet was also spread as a screenshot by other social media users on Facebook here and here and on Instagram here.

The US requires people to wear face coverings when traveling on planes, trains and buses. Various state and local governments have instituted mask mandates, though some have begun to lift them.

Face covering requirements sparked an intense backlash among those who view them as an inconvenience or an impingement on personal freedom. Inaccurate information about masks and their utility has flourished online.

But the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) -- which did not recommend widespread mask use early in the pandemic -- has long since made clear that face coverings are an important part of the fight against Covid-19.

The disease “spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets. Respiratory droplets travel into the air when you cough, sneeze, talk, shout, or sing. These droplets can then land in the mouths or noses of people who are near you or they may breathe these droplets in,” the CDC’s website says.

“Masks are a simple barrier to help prevent your respiratory droplets from reaching others. Studies show that masks reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth.”

The CDC also says they are not just a barrier to a person transmitting the disease: “Studies demonstrate that cloth mask materials can also reduce wearers’ exposure to infectious droplets through filtration.”

“The relationship between source control and personal protection is likely complementary and possibly synergistic, so that individual benefit increases with increasing community mask use,” it adds.