Masks will not give us superpowers, nor make social distancing unnecessary. We need to do all of the above until we have a vaccine
Should we or shouldn’t we all wear masks? When asked if the public should wear them, the CDC has recently shifted their position from a no to a maybe to a sure. The research is quite clear; masks could be a useful tool in reducing the spread of the virus from a contagious individual. But this relies on two assumptions to be of immediate utility: we use masks that do not compete with the needs of healthcare professionals, and that masks are worn by both symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals.
As a country, we do not have enough masks for healthcare workers. We must have a widely-available substitute before advising the public to wear masks. And, as a society, if we cannot even convince potential asymptomatics to defer their spring break plans, will they wear masks? It seems the root issue is something more pernicious – we need to focus on behavioral change.