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Masks and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Educational Objective
To understand the important role wearing masks plays in mitigating COVID-19

COVID-19 is an infectious disease that can be transmitted via respiratory droplets.

Recent studies suggest that coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may be transmitted by infected persons even in the absence of symptoms of disease. While social distancing and good hand hygiene are the most important methods to prevent virus transmission, new guidelines state that healthy individuals can consider wearing masks in public settings, particularly when physical distancing is difficult (like in grocery stores or pharmacies). Primary benefits of wearing a mask include limiting the spread of the virus from someone who knows or does not know they have an infection to others. Masks also remind others to continue practicing physical distancing. However, nonmedical masks may not be effective in preventing infection for the person wearing them. Masks should not be worn by children younger than 2 years or by individuals who are unable to remove the mask by themselves or are unconscious.

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Article Information

Published Online: April 17, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.6437

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Aronoff reported receiving funding from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, Pfizer, Cayman Chemical Co, March of Dimes, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and serving as an advisory board consultant for Summit Therapeutics, NAEJA-RGM Pharmaceuticals, BLC, and Sanofi Pasteur. Dr Desai reported no disclosures.

Sources: Omer SB, Malani P, Del Rio C. The COVID-19 pandemic in the US: a clinical update. JAMA. Published online April 6, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.5788

Bourouiba L. Turbulent gas clouds and respiratory pathogen emissions: potential implications for reducing transmission of COVID-19. JAMA. Published online March 26, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.4756

Bai Y, Yao L, Wei T, et al. Presumed asymptomatic carrier transmission of COVID-19. JAMA. 2020;323(14):1406-1407. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.2565

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