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The CDC and other health organizations recommend that people wear masks in public settings and around people who don’t live in the same household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. 

Masks may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others, and they are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings. The CDC and other health organizations recommend wearing a mask with two or more layers to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Masks should NOT be worn by children under the age of 2, or anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance. Masks with exhalation valves or vents should NOT be worn to help prevent the person wearing the mask from spreading COVID-19 to others. In addition, surgical masks should continue to be reserved for healthcare providers and practitioners. 

Masks are a way to stop the spread of COVID-19. They are recommended as a simple barrier that may help to prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the mask coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice, which is called source control. This recommendation is based on what the CDC and other health organizations know about the role respiratory droplets play in the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. 

This knowledge, when paired with emerging evidence from clinical and laboratory studies, shows that masks reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth. COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact with one another – within about 6 feet – so the use of masks is particularly important in settings where people are close to each other or where social distancing is difficult to maintain. CDC’s recommendations for masks will be updated as new scientific evidence becomes available.