Do I need to wear a mask if I’m 6 feet away from others?

Experts recommend wearing masks in public and staying at least 6 feet away from others to reduce the risk of a coronavirus infection, but whether you should do both could depend on the situation

Do I need to wear a mask if I’m 6 feet away from others?

Health experts recommend wearing masks in public and keeping your distance from others in most cases, but whether you should do both could depend on the situation.

“There’s no invisible force field at 6 feet,” said Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease expert at George Mason University.

Other factors could also influence whether it’s best to keep your distance while also wearing a mask. When people raise their voices or pant — such as when they sing, shout or exercise — they can expel more respiratory droplets or aerosols, and send them traveling farther through the air. The longer you’re in a situation with potential for exposure to the virus, the greater your risk of infection.

Since no protective measure is entirely effective, Lee suggests layering safeguards like masks, social distancing and hand washing.

“And your mask is your basic layer,” she said.

Getting in the habit of wearing a mask anytime you leave the house also eliminates having to decide when you should, said Bob Bednarczyk, an expert in infectious diseases at Emory University.

“It’s one less thing to worry about,” he said.

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The AP is answering your questions about the coronavirus in this series. Submit them at: FactCheck@AP.org.

Read previous Viral Questions:

Can the coronavirus travel more than 6 feet in the air?

What are the rules on masks in schools?

Does a face mask protect me, or just the people around me?