The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 25 percent of people infected with the coronavirus have no symptoms. When these people breathe and speak, they eject droplets containing the virus that infect nearby people and contaminate surfaces. Until widespread testing or a vaccine is available, the outbreak won’t be contained unless these transmissions are reduced.
Everyone should wear an improvised face mask in public to protect each other. Wearing masks is common in places that have contained the outbreak. Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia now require covering the mouth and nose in public. The mayors of New York City and Los Angeles have urged people to cover themselves. Combined with staying home, maintaining physical distance and washing hands, covering your mouth and nose could further slow the virus spread.
Surgical masks and N95 respirators should be reserved for health care workers and first responders. Covering your mouth and nose with a scarf, shawl, bandana, two layers of cut up t-shirt or a homemade cloth mask would help. Wash your hands before putting on, adjusting, or taking off a face covering to avoid infecting yourself. Launder face cloths in hot soapy water regularly.