Does a face mask protect me, or just the people around me from coronavirus?

Coverings likely protect you and others

FILE - In this Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020 file photo, students of the Robert-Koch vocational college sit with face masks in the classroom during computer science lessons in Dortmund, Germany. Despite a spike in coronavirus infections, authorities in Europe are determined to send children back to school. At least 41 of Berlins 825 schools reported virus cases as classes resumed this month, and thousands of students have been quarantined around the country. But Germany is determined not to close schools anew, so they're sending individual students or classes into quarantine instead. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020 file photo, students of the Robert-Koch vocational college sit with face masks in the classroom during computer science lessons in Dortmund, Germany. Despite a spike in coronavirus infections, authorities in Europe are determined to send children back to school. At least 41 of Berlins 825 schools reported virus cases as classes resumed this month, and thousands of students have been quarantined around the country. But Germany is determined not to close schools anew, so they're sending individual students or classes into quarantine instead. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Does a face mask protect me, or just the people around me?

It likely provides protection for both.

Studies on the new coronavirus and other germs show wearing a mask helps stop infected people from spreading disease to others. Evidence also suggests that masks may offer some protection for the people wearing them.

The virus spreads from droplets people spray when they cough, sneeze or talk. Surgical or cloth face masks can block most of those particles from spreading.

While some droplets may still spread out, wearing a mask could reduce the amount, providing a benefit to others. Research shows people don’t get as sick when exposed to smaller amounts of virus, said Dr. Monica Gandhi, a virus expert at University of California, San Francisco.

And masks may protect the people wearing them by reducing the amount of droplets from others that might make contact with them.

In two U.S. food processing plants where masks were required and infection clusters occurred, Gandhi noted that most workers who developed COVID-19 had mild illness or no symptoms.

Research on a different coronavirus has also found low infection rates among people who frequently wore masks in public.

Experts say masks are particularly important with the new coronavirus because infected people can be contagious even if they don’t have symptoms.


The AP is answering your questions about the coronavirus in this series. Submit them at: FactCheck@AP.org.

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