- As official guidance on face masks changes, people are wondering which of their daily activities will now require the use of a face mask.
- While the evidence on the usefulness of homemade face masks is mixed, experts say wearing a face mask, even a homemade one, can prevent asymptomatic people from transmitting the virus to others.
- If you’re running in an area where you’re unlikely to meet another person, wearing a mask may be unnecessary. But if you’re running in a crowded park or main street, wearing a mask is a good idea.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The US is now advising all Americans to wear masks where they’re outside. But the CDC did not explicitly address whether this always applies to the most active of daily activities: exercise.
It does fall under the remit of being outdoors, but many Americans have taken to Twitter or written in to Insider asking whether it is unsafe to jog without a mask on.
Nearly all experts say spending time outside is good, and exercising can do wonders for someone cooped up in quarantine.
As for whether it is reckless to jog without a face covering on: it depends.
The CDC recommends “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”
That means people should wear masks while running in crowded places, or places where they are likely to pass other runners. But if you are running in sparse areas where you are unlikely to come anywhere near 6 feet from another person, wearing a mask might be unnecessary.
US health officials are now telling everyone to wear a mask – but they insist the most important thing is to stay away from others
In the early days of the virus, the World Health Organization and the CDC repeatedly told the public not to buy face masks to protect the short global supply for healthcare workers, who are more likely to be exposed to illness, since certain procedures they do, like intubation, can put them directly at risk for infection.
But the message was confusing for the general public – who were told masks would do nothing to protect them, but were essential to protect medics. The CDC decided to make a blanket recommendation that everyone wear masks – and some US cities are even fining people for not wearing masks.
However, in every press conference and interview, the directors of the CDC, the National Institutes of Health, and the WHO emphasize that social distancing – staying at least six feet away from other people – is the most important tactic to prevent the spread.
According to NIH director Dr. Anthony Fauci, there is little evidence the virus hangs in the air when you’re out and about in a park. Only if you’re in very confined quarters like an elevator where somebody has just sneezed might there be a risk, he said.
Fauci, who has tested negative for COVID-19, told a White House press briefing he doesn’t wear a mask because they’re intended to catch droplets from the mouths and noses of infected people.
It’s unclear how effective face masks are for limiting the spread of the virus
Given the shortage of surgical and N95 masks, US Surgeon General Jerome Adams is encouraging the public to make their own homemade masks out of old scarves, bandanas, and t-shirts.
While the research on homemade face masks is inconclusive, public health researchers previously told Insider that masks could be a useful way to contain droplets ejected from the mouths of asymptomatic people, who do not know they are sick but are spreading the virus to others.
“The argument…about everybody wearing a mask is not that it will prevent everyone from getting infected – it’s that it will slow down transmission in the community a bit,” Cowling previously told Business Insider. “That’s already useful. Just to have even a small effect is useful.”
Evidence suggests some DIY materials might be better at blocking viral particles than others – like sweatshirts over scarves.
However, textile engineer Emiel DenHartog, Associate Director of the Textile Protection and Comfort Center at North Carolina State University, warned most common household fabrics like t-shirts and cloth are flawed.
“Even though you might not clearly see these openings in woven and knit fabrics, they are still much larger than many droplets that may contain the virus,” DenHartog told Business Insider.
Just make sure you keep a wide berth
After a headline circulated saying that the virus could travel 27 feet, Fauci weighed in, calling it “misleading.”
“If you go way back and go, ‘Achoo!’ And go like that, you might get 27 feet. So when you see somebody do that, get out of the way,” Fauci told NPR.
He said we cannot rule out that the virus can travel through the air, but it is unlikely to be contagious, even if it does float a few meters.
The important thing when jogging is to be isolated, and keep a wide berth turning corners. If you can’t avoid crowds, a mask is advised.