Are Face Covers as Good as Face Masks?

It's Official. CDC Says to Cover Face.

The CDC has officially recommended to cover your face at all times to protect yourself against the coronavirus. Even though face masks are still the recommended option, they are much harder to get than a face cover which can be made from everyday items. A face cover can be any knitted material that covers the nose and mouth like a scarf or bandana (sorry no halloween masks yet).

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The Quick Answer

No. If given the option, a face respirator mask is leagues more effective than simple face cover. The reason is because that a face respirator mask like the N95 used by hospital staff in the US or the KN95 used in Asia can filter out small particles that are more than 2.5 microns thick. For comparison, the average human hair is 50 microns thick! This prevents microscopic air droplets that carry the virus to enter your body. On the other hand, a simple face covering like a scarf cannot filter droplets that small so they can still enter your body.

Why Did the CDC Recommend Them?

Even though they can't filter the air we breathe, face covers can help slow the spread of the coronavirus in other ways. A simple scarf or bandana can block a major portion of large particles that are ejected when the person wearing it sneezes or coughs. This can stop the spread of the virus when someone is asymptomatic, or still isn't exhibiting all symptoms of the disease. Another big factor is they prevent people from touching their face directly with their hands. This can minimize infections picked up from surfaces through touch.

The last effect a simple face cover can have is to give wearers the mindset that they should be staying safe at all times, especially when they are outside. This can change how people behave outside and flag people to keep their distance. Safer behavior can minimize a lot more risks and infections that let the coronavirus spread so rapidly. That's why the CDC recommends any method that promotes safe behaviour.

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