When should I wear a mask outside?

Some people wonder when it would be helpful to wear a mask outdoors. COVID-19 mainly spreads person-to-person through droplets people emit when they speak, cough, or exhale. Outdoor air circulation helps to disperse these droplets. The novel coronavirus is also sensitive to sunlight, high temperatures and humidity, all of which might also lower the risk of catching COVID outside. Most of the time, most people do not need to wear a mask outside. 

However, there are a few situations when wearing your mask outside is helpful:

    • You are in a location with a large number of people where you cannot distance. The more people in the area, the higher your chance of encountering someone with COVID. Also, your risk of catching COVID from someone is higher the closer you are. Concerts, sporting events, and other large gatherings can be particularly risky because shouting, singing, and even loud talking spread more infectious droplets than speaking at a typical volume.
    • You have a weakened immune system. Even if you are fully vaccinated, you should continue to wear a mask if you are going to be in close contact with people.
  • Local ordinances require you to wear a mask. 

If you do go indoors at any point, even just to use a public restroom, put a mask on. Wearing a mask, keeping physical distance, avoiding large crowds, and spending more time outside (rather than inside) will all help to reduce your risk. Remember people, place, time, and space each time you go out.

Last update: September 13, 2021 8:45 am ET
Science review: JAB, ERS