Do You Need To Wear Your Mask Indoors?

by Kroger Health Staff

Last Updated: July 27, 2020

The summer heat is here, and many are turning up the A/C to cool down. But as we turn on the air, are we increasing the risk of spreading COVID-19? While experts are still studying the likelihood of air conditioning spreading the virus, The World Health Organization recently updated its description of how the virus is spread to acknowledge that droplets carrying the coronavirus may be airborne indoors. In light of this information, experts continue to urge people to wear face coverings to protect themselves and others.

In an article published in Emerging Infectious Diseases, experts describe a situation that occurred at a restaurant in China that resulted in ten individuals contracting the virus. One of the diners was asymptomatic at the time but became ill and tested positive for COVID-19 later that day. After an investigation, the authors of the article concluded the additional ten infections resulted from droplet transmission. The authors conjectured that due to the distance and direction, the droplets needed to travel to infect each of the ten diners that the restaurant's air conditioning may have further disseminated the infected droplets. It is important to note, however, that there were a total of 83 diners at the restaurant on the day in question, and the 73 patrons who did not contract the virus were quarantined for two weeks and still tested negative.

Healthcare professionals continue to remind the public that the main way the virus spreads is through close contact with infected persons. However, many scientists believe that airborne transmission may also contribute to the spread of COVID-19, though experts remain divided on the prevalence of airborne transmission. A letter published in Environment International notes that based on multiple studies conducted in hospital environments, many of which are currently under review, there is sufficient evidence to support the notion of at least a “potential risk” for transmission of the virus through airborne transmission. In theory, then, because circulated air moves particles, it is possible for a person to contract COVID-19 from droplets in the air - this is airborne transmission.

Masks help reduce the potential spread of droplets by acting as a barrier, helping block the droplets from dispersing into the air. If a person wearing a mask coughs, sneezes, or otherwise expels droplets, the mask reduces the likelihood of those droplets contaminating surrounding areas or people. Therefore, it is critical that whenever you are in a public setting - indoor or outdoor - to wear a face covering.

Disclaimer: The information in this story is accurate as of its publication. However, the situation surrounding COVID-19 is ever-evolving. We are working to keep our stories up-to-date as changes occur, but we also encourage everyone to check news and recommendations from the CDC, WHO, and their local authorities.