The primary benefit of covering your nose and mouth is that you protect others. While we still have much to learn about the novel coronavirus, we now believe that many people who are infected are shedding the virus – through coughs, sneezes and other respiratory droplets – for 48 hours before they start feeling sick.

Furthermore, some people who have the virus – up to 25%, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield — may never feel symptoms but may still play a role in transmitting it.

That’s why wearing a face mask even if you don’t feel sick can be a good idea.

If you cough or sneeze, the mask can catch those respiratory droplets so they don’t land on other people or surfaces.

According to Dr. Daniel Griffin at Columbia University, an expert on infectious diseases, “it’s not going to protect you, but it is going to protect your neighbor. If your neighbor is wearing a mask and the same thing happens, they’re going to protect you. So masks worn properly have the potential to benefit people.