Do Masks Prevent The Spread Of COVID-19? States That Require Face Masks

Mira Research Team
Mira Research Team20 Jan 2021

Do Masks Prevent The Spread Of COVID-19? States That Require Face Masks


Quick Digest and Recent COVID-19 Updates - October 2nd, 2020

As of October 2nd, 2020, President Donald Trump and his wife Melania have tested positive for coronavirus COVID-19. Donald Trump reported that he is experiencing mild symptoms. 

Joe Biden and his wife Jill tested negative on October 2nd. In addition, other individuals who attended the presidential debate on Tuesday, such as Congressman Ruben Gallego tested negative for the virus. However, the Cleveland Clinic reported that not all attendees at the presidential debate adhered to wearing a mask. Therefore, there may be some risk that others at the debate contracted coronavirus.  

Vice President Mike Pence and Kamala Harris tested negative for COVID-19. Therefore, the vice presidential debates are still scheduled to occur next week at The University of Utah. 

This incident highlights the importance of wearing a mask in public places even when you are not experiencing symptoms. On July 16th, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Director Dr. Robert Redfield recently noted that if everyone could wear a mask right now, the U.S. could have the coronavirus cases under control within the next couple of months.

Should I Wear a Mask? 

The CDC strongly recommends that you wear a mask, especially when in contact with people outside of your household, when in public settings, and when indoors. It is now known that COVID-19 can be transmitted from an individual who does not present with symptoms, whereas close to 40% of people with the virus may experience no symptoms. Therefore, it is imperative that you wear a mask, even if you do not feel sick. If you think that you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms, do not go out in public other than for medical needs. If you think you may have COVID-19, wear a mask at all times - even around members of your household. 

There are a few groups of people who are exempt from wearing a mask or face covering:

  • Any child under the age of two
  • Adults with respiratory issues and breathing problems
  • Individuals who are unconscious or unable to remove the mask without assistance from others


Do Masks Work In Preventing The Spread Of COVID-19?

Studies show that wearing a mask prevents respiratory droplets from going into the air when you speak, cough, and sneeze. According to an article published by The University of California San Francisco, we generate hundreds of respiratory droplets from just saying a simple phrase; however, a cloth face covering can block almost all of these droplets from reaching the air. According to scientists at Stanford University, if you do not wear a mask, particles from your mouth and nose can travel more than 30 feet in the air and stay alive for more than 24 hours. With the use of a mask, however, viral particles can only travel around 5 feet. 

Additionally, according to a recent publication, Community Use Of Face Masks And COVID-19: Evidence From A Natural Experiment Of State Mandates In The US, mandating the use of face masks in public areas resulted in a 2% decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases in only 3 weeks. While 2% may not seem large at first, that‚s between 230,000 and 450,000 cases of COVID-19 that were potentially avoided.


Health Image

Get Mira - Health Benefits You Can Afford.

Get doctor visits, lab tests, prescription, and more. Affordable copays. Available in 45+ states. Only $45/month on average.

Is It Mandatory to Wear a Mask?

Whether or not it's mandatory to wear a mask truly depends on the state and its' current advisories. However, wearing a mask has shown to be the most effective way of preventing the spread of coronavirus.


States That Require Masks

The following states require people to wear a face mask or covering in public:







District of Columbia














New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina




Puerto Rico

Rhode Island





West Virginia



Why Weren't Masks Recommended at The Beginning of The Pandemic?

When the coronavirus began spreading statewide, it was not recommended for the general public to wear face masks, they were strictly for healthcare professionals as personal protective equipment (PPE). This was due to the national shortage of PPE. By early April, the Strategic National Stockpile had been depleted, and during this time President Trump proceeded with the Defense Production Act to have manufacturing chains across the U.S. focus on making vital medical equipment such as ventilators and masks. At this time, it was also unclear how coronavirus was spreading and whether or not wearing one was effective.

Now, the CDC now recommends wearing cloth face masks in public settings where social distancing recommendations are hard to maintain, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, and especially in areas where there is a significant level of community spread. As seen in the graph below, the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. has been drastically increasing over the past week. According to the CDC, if we all start wearing masks, the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. can be under control in just several weeks.

Source: New York Times, Johns Hopkins


Do Masks Protect Me? Do They Protect Other People? 

The highest protection occurs when both you and other people are wearing masks and maintaining a physical distance of at least 6 feet. In these situations, both yourself and other people are protected. In circumstances where you are wearing a mask and others are not, different types of masks will provide different levels of protection. N95 masks do the best job of protecting yourself from infection. Additionally, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, blue surgical masks can protect you from larger expelled respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes. They also prevent your own respiratory droplets from evaporating into small droplets that can travel and infect others. Ultimately, cloth masks protect others since there are fewer respiratory particles traveling through the air.

Source: East Alabama Medical Center


Health Image

Virtual care for only $25 per visit

Virtual primary care, urgent care, and behavioral health visits are only $25 with a Mira membership.

What Type of Mask Should I Wear? Which is best?

Surgical Masks: These are also known as medical masks and they are loose fitting, disposable masks that protect the nose and mouth from contact with droplets as well as splashes or sprays that may contain germs. They filter out large particles in the air and may protect others by reducing the amount of saliva and particles leaving the wearer's mouth and nose.

N95 Masks: They offer more protection than surgical masks because they are a type of respirator. They can filter out large and small particles. In fact, the mask is designed to filter out 95% of very small particles. Like surgical masks, they are disposable.

Cloth masks: Cloth masks trap droplets that are released by the person wearing the mask. Cloth coverings have the best potential to reduce the spread of coronavirus because they're easily accessible- if everyone wears them in public settings, the impact would be immeasurable. These masks can be made from common materials such as sheets, woven cotton, etc.



Should I Wear a Face Shield? 

Many healthcare professionals have been wearing face shields in addition to masks when performing procedures that may involve blood or other fluids. In general, however, it is not necessary to wear a face shield in public as long as you are wearing a mask and at least 6ft apart from others. If you are not able to maintain physical distance from other people and others are not wearing a mask, it is possible that face shields will provide additional protection. 

When and Where Should I Wear a Mask? 

In some cities (such as New York or Los Angeles), it's required to wear a mask when you go outside of your household. Other states have mandated masks when in an indoor space with others, such as the supermarket. Even if you aren‚t showing any symptoms, you should always wear a mask when indoors with other people. When outdoors, you should wear a mask if you cannot be social distancing with others outside of your home or inner circle. Additionally, if you are exercising in a crowded area, such as a park, or inside a gym you should wear a mask.




Mira Research Team

The Mira Research team conducts original data and medical research on the most applicable topics of today and translates them into easy-to-understand articles to educate the public. Each of our articles is carefully reviewed and curated with interviews and opinions from medical experts, public health officials, and experienced administrators. The team has educational backgrounds from New York University, the University of Virginia, more.