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Wear a face mask? Yes, perhaps

Federal officials are reportedly re-evaluating whether people should wear face masks in public to help prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health–Seattle & King County, told reporters earlier this week there’s no evidence a homemade face mask, or one that’s not medical-grade, will prevent you from getting sick. But there’s a chance having something covering your nose and mouth could protect someone else from you. 

“There might be a theoretical benefit to having a mask on which would decrease any potential for droplets to go through the air and infect someone else,” he said. 

There is evidence you can spread the coronavirus without even knowing you’re sick — possibly just by talking. But Duchin said it’s still not clear how much difference masks would make, especially since people are supposed to be staying away from each other anyway. 

What’s crucial, he said, is that people don’t use up medical-grade masks because front-line health care workers are already facing shortages.

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Will James reports and produces special projects, including podcasts and series, for KNKX. He created and hosted the Outsiders podcast, chronicling homelessness in Olympia for more than a year, in partnership with The Seattle Times.