Is 1-Way Masking Effective at Preventing COVID?

With revised CDC masking guidelines across the country, the decision to wear a mask is left up to us as individuals. If you're not ready to go maskless, that's okay. But you may be wondering, what kind of protection you're being offered when you're the only one in a public setting that's wearing a mask. Here, experts weigh in on the practice of one-way masking and whether or not it can protect you from COVID-19.

Will Wearing a Mask Protect Me Against COVID When Others Are Unmasked?

It's no secret that two-way masking offers the most protection. However, even if an individual wears a mask among those not wearing them, it's still protective against COVID, explains Dr. Parikh, allergist and immunologist with Allergy & Asthma Network. If you're vaccinated and wearing a mask, you'll be even safer: In addition to the barrier covering your face, the vaccination will increase your immunity to the virus that causes COVID, Dr. Parikh adds.

Which Mask is Best For One-Way Masking?

The key to one-way masking being effective is to use the best mask available, says Chicago-based internal medicine physician, Vivek Cherian, MD. If you can use an KN95 mask, this will offer you a high degree of protection. But if you can't, Dr. Cherian says wearing a surgical mask or cloth mask is ultimately better than wearing no mask at all.

Double-masking will also offer more protection. Dr. Parikh suggests wearing the medical grade mask on the inside (like a surgical mask) and the cloth mask on the outside. Or if you have no medical grade masks, keep the tightest-fitting mask on the inside. Be sure the mask covers your nose and mouth completely, and fits snugly against your face.

Will One-Way Masking Offer Protection in Crowds?

People wearing a mask around unmasked people are protected in crowds, but much less so if they are not wearing KN95 masks, says Dr. Parikh. Crowded and poorly ventilated indoor spaces such as gyms or indoor concerts increase a person's risk, so avoid high-risk situations unless absolutely necessary. If you must be in a crowded or poorly ventilated space, maintain six to 10 feet space between others, or stand near an open window or door if possible.