The science behind why masks and how masks work

  • UPDATE: Fauci says CDC considering recommending masks again for vaccinated people

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COVID numbers are rising again, with the more-contagious delta variant spreading rapidly among unvaccinated people. The CDC reversed course and urged even fully-vaccinated Americans to wear masks indoors again in areas of high COVID-19 transmission.

And the question arises again: do masks help?

There has been a changing and occasionally conflicting message on this topic from experts and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so let’s take a look at what we know now.

Short version: Yes. They do. A lot.

Repeated studies have shown that masks, when used properly, drastically reduce the amount of respiratory droplets you spread, and they reduce the amount you breathe in (but not as much). That slows down the spread of COVID, by reducing the droplets expelled by an infected person.