Report: CDC may urge Americans to wear face masks in public to stop spread of virus

SEATTLE -- More and more people in the Pacific Northwest are asking, "Should I be wearing a face mask when I leave my home?"

A new Washington Post report says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may soon urge Americans to cover their faces to control the spread of the virus.

As of Tuesday, the CDC’s COVID-19 website still said you don’t need to wear a mask unless you’re caring for someone who’s sick.

Here are some key questions many of our viewers have been asking.

Will a face mask protect you from the virus?

While the evidence is thin on how much a mask protects the person wearing it, it’s clear that masks stop people from spreading their own droplets through the air when they breathe, talk, sneeze, or cough.

That's the reason University of Washington Transportation worker Eric Martin has been wearing a mask for the last two weeks.

“As a precaution. For myself and the people around me,” Martin said. “When you get within six feet of people, particles can fly and they land.”

Doesn't this go against what we've been told?

Yes, it does. Until now, the message from federal health officials has been that you don't need to wear a mask in public. They've also said, we need to preserve protective equipment, like masks, for our medical workers on the front lines.

That's part of the reason U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams was told people today not to wear face masks.

“We want to make sure we are reserving PPE for the people who most need it," Dr. Adams said. "That's how you are going to get the largest effects. Because if healthcare workers get sick, they can't take care of you when you get sick.”

Americans are not used to wearing masks.

Daniel Lee, who was wearing a mask in Seattle's University District has family in South Korea. He points out that in Korea wearing a mask is common place.

“I think it’s cultural," Lee said. "In Asian culture. If we feel sick or bad, we just wear a mask. But here in the states, people don’t really wear masks.”

Could masks negatively affect people's behavior?

That’s a risk. Some worry, wearing masks could lead people to ignore social distancing.

“It could also give you a false sense of security," said Surgeon General Adams.  "You see many of these pictures with people out and about, closer than 6 feet to each other, but still wearing a mask.”

Still, for essential workers who have to venture out like Eric Martin, a mask offers peace of mind.

Martin said, "Me personally, I feel better with this extra layer.”