MILLBURN, NJ — With the Coronavirus spreading more and more every day, including cases in Millburn/Short Hills, the question on everyone’s mind is how to stay safe.

One solution often proposed in the past weeks has been face masks. They are sold out everywhere, people are wearing them in the streets, people are wearing them at home. But how effective are masks against the Coronavirus?

The answer: if someone is not infected with the virus, masks are ineffective.

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According to Dr. Michael J. Ryan, the executive director of the World Health Organization health emergency program, “Not having a mask does not necessarily put you at any increased risk of contracting the disease.”

The CDC says, “You should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it. A facemask should be used by people who have COVID-19 [the Coronavirus] and are showing symptoms.”

Masks are only recommended for the infected in order to protect others from also being infected. The virus is respiratory, meaning that droplets from coughs and sneezes spread the virus to others. Masks can help prevent such droplets from spreading.

In fact, when uninfected people wear masks, they run the risk of unintentionally contaminating themselves by touching their faces during mask removal

That being said, the World Health Organization advises healthy people to wear masks “if you are taking care of a person with suspected 2019-nCoV [Coronavirus] infection.”

It is important to keep the mask issue in perspective. As the number of cases increase in the United States, medical professionals will need more and more masks. These professionals will be the ones in direct contact with the infected, so they need access to masks. Masks for them are not a luxury—they’re a necessity.

The public panicking and buying masks in bulk, leading to price gouging, only means that medical professionals will not have enough masks when they need them the most.

As Jerome M. Adams, the surgeon general said, “Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS ... If health care providers can not get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”

However, there are still ways you can take action to protect yourself and your family. The CDC recommends:

  • Avoid close contact with others. Maintain a distance of 6 feet.
  • Wash your hands often. Make sure you scrub for at least 20 seconds.
  • If you can not wash your hands, use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes.
  • Disinfect frequently-touched surfaces daily. For example, “tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.