Why should I wear a mask?

Masks work.

  • When people breathe, talk, cough, or sneeze, small droplets leave their mouths and float through the air. When someone is infected with COVID-19, these droplets contain tiny virus particles. 

  • Some droplets travel through the air (usually six feet, sometimes up to twenty-seven feet), some droplets may linger in the air, and some evaporate. Once the droplets evaporate, the viral particles (which are much smaller) may continue to travel on their own.

  • If a person wears a mask to protect themselves, it's possible that some viral particles from other infected individuals will seep through microscopic holes in the mask or around the edges. But if a person who is infected with COVID-19, knowingly or not, wears a mask, this helps trap most of the droplets that they may be releasing.

  • One reason that COVID-19 is so hard to contain is that infected people can spread the virus before they feel sick. It's also possible for people to be spreading the virus without ever feeling sick at all. Even if anyone who felt slightly ill stayed home, that still wouldn’t be enough to stop the virus from spreading.

  • While masks are most effective at protecting others from the mask-wearer, they can also protect the mask-wearer themselves to some extent. Even if the mask doesn’t stop every single viral particle from reaching the mask-wearer, reducing the number of viral particles inhaled may make the disease less severe. 

Masks are really no big deal. 

  • Deciding to wear a mask is something small you can do to help protect others from becoming sick. The first few times you wear a mask, it might feel uncomfortable, but after wearing a mask for a little while, it’ll become more comfortable and feel natural. It does take some effort to buy a mask and to remember it at the door, but wearing a mask is the one thing you can do to stop the virus that shouldn’t have a negative impact on any part of your life. 

Masks allow us to reopen.

  • If you believe that the world shouldn’t stay in lockdown, or if you’re going a little crazy in lockdown, you should wear a mask. Wearing masks in conjunction with social distancing slows the transmission of the virus and allows businesses to open up. 


It’s apolitical. 

  • While there is true complexity in the tradeoff between economic and health priorities, wearing a mask is one of the few measures that everyone agrees helps to stop the virus.


It shows you care.

  • There are people in our community who have recently lost a loved one to COVID-19. Imagine what they must be thinking watching people congregate without bothering to put on a mask. By wearing a mask, you are showing compassion to these people who are in so much pain right now. 


It’s a mitzvah.

  • Doing something because you believe that it’s the right thing to do, despite discomfort, is the definition of greatness. 


You may be thinking:

Which kind of mask should I wear?

   ●  A standard three-ply surgical mask or a three-ply cotton face covering is optimal. While data are limited, these appear superior to single or double-ply cloth face coverings, and are certainly better than a bandanna, “gaiters” or scarfs covering the mouth and nose, which we do not recommend that people use.

  • N95 or KN95 masks are usually worn only by healthcare workers in close proximity to selected patients with COVID-19. They require fit testing to be worn properly.

  • Masks that have air vented outside should absolutely not be worn. While they offer some protection to the wearer, they put everyone else potentially at risk from breathing the exhaled air through the vent.


How should I wear my mask properly?

  • Masks should fit snugly over the mouth and nose.

  • Masks should not be removed while talking.

  • Do not stand directly behind someone with a poorly fitted mask, as ill-fitting masks make it more likely for virus-containing aerosols to travel behind the person wearing it.


How can I be comfortable with a mask?

  • It is pretty uncomfortable to wear a mask - for the first few days. Once you get used to it, you may not even notice it. 

How can I be confident in wearing a mask? 

  • In some communities where people don’t yet wear masks, putting one on can feel awkward. No one wants to stand out. But if enough people decide to tolerate that discomfort, then it will no longer be embarrassing.


Do I need to wear a mask indoors if I'm social distancing?

  • Any building with a closed ventilation system has the potential to spread virus farther than six feet. If you’re indoors with people who are not in your household (for example, in a shul), one person may be able to make everyone else sick even if they’re all standing six feet apart. The choir in Washington State, where one person infected fifty-three others, two of whom died, is a prime example of that; although social distancing guidelines weren't followed fully, they did refrain from hugging and handshaking.

​Do I need to wear a mask outside?

  • Although the virus degrades relatively rapidly outside, if you are standing within six feet of someone else and conversing, viral particles can easily exit your mouth and nose and travel directly into theirs. Thus, while wearing masks isn’t necessary if you are six feet apart from others at all times, we recommend that you keep a mask with you while outdoors in case you come within six feet of another individual. 

​The government didn't recommend masks a few months ago. What changed?

  • Masks aren’t 100% effective in protecting each individual interaction, and originally, politicians and scientists were worried that endorsing masks would encourage vulnerable populations to mingle with others, albeit with masks. However, if we all wear masks to prevent the vast majority of viral particles from leaving our mouths and noses, the potential of the virus spreading is lowered drastically. 

  • Masks still aren't fully effective in stopping the spread completely, and mask-wearers do need to stay socially distanced, especially from vulnerable people. This is a somewhat nuanced message and the government was, perhaps justifiably, concerned about the public not understanding this subtlety. 

​I already had COVID-19. Do I need to wear a mask?

  • There are now known cases of reinfection of COVID-19, so having had COVID-19 in the past and/or having antibodies for the disease may not protect you from reinfection and potentially transmitting the virus to others.


Could enough people have immunity that we don’t have to wear masks?

  • With the current uptick in cases across the frum tri-state community, this likelihood seems small. 

  • Regardless, many high-risk people in our community are not immune. By not wearing a mask, we pose a potential danger to them, as community transmission among the young and healthy can easily spread to the vulnerable.


do masks make people nervous?

  • Being a little nervous is sometimes a good thing. Hashem gave us the ability to become nervous so that we should avoid getting hurt. Really, though, we should view wearing masks as normal hishtadlus. Just as we wouldn’t expect to earn a parnassah without making any hishtadlus toward that goal, we need to realize that without masks in conjunction with social distancing, the likelihood of a second outbreak is real.

are masks healthy?

  • Masks can sometimes make you feel a little cramped and may even lead to hyperventilation in some rare cases, but there are ways to breathe more comfortably in masks. Click here for a great video to help with that feeling.

  • Remember that the benefit you are accomplishing by wearing the mask is tremendous and use that as a motivation to keep at it.

are masks safe for all people?

  • Currently, the only people for whom wearing masks is contraindicated are children under the age of 2.

  • People who have asthma or other breathing disorders can try a surgical mask instead of a cloth mask if they find a cloth mask uncomfortable, but there is no scientific evidence that cloth/surgical mask-wearing causes one to breathe more carbon dioxide or that it could make you sick. See advice above about hyperventilation.

  • We do not recommend wearing a KN95 or N95 mask for most people as it is more restrictive, unless you were advised to do so by your doctor.