This photograph and many like it are circulating social media, claiming that cloth and surgical masks are ineffective at limiting the spread of COVID-19. This comes closely behind many United States stores deciding to refuse entrance to anybody not wearing a mask, which many of these social media posts claim to be a useless measure, given the disclaimer on surgical mask packaging.
What’s True: Surgical masks and cloth masks indeed do not protect the wearer against viruses like N95 respirator masks do. N95 masks are finely-filtered to the point of preventing viruses from entering – cloth and surgical masks cannot filter to the same degree, so wearing one doesn’t significantly lessen the chance of inhaling an airborne virus.
What’s Misinfo: Surgical and cloth masks were never designed to protect the wearer from airborne Coronavirus. The widespread use of cloth masks heavily limits the amount of virus spread by an infected individual – wearing a mask helps prevent an infected person from spreading the virus by containing coughs, sneezes, and other infectious material from leaving the mask. Shopping in an environment where all of the other customers are wearing these masks greatly reduces a person’s chance of becoming infected by another customer.