Can you catch Covid if everyone is wearing a mask?

I am wondering if you can catch Covid if everyone is wearing a mask? I would be wearing a bandanna or cloth facemask. I also wonder about situations where everyone is wearing a mask but I have to take my mask off for example for a doctor to look at a spot on my face. I understand a mask would block large droplets or at least reduce their spread and the distance they are projected but what about aerosol, would they block aerosol spread if a sick person is coughing through the mask?

In theory if a sick person is wearing a mask it should help limit spread, but how much? I have read of numerous cases of people going to the hospital and catching Covid while in the hospital, how is that possible if everyone is wearing a mask? I know one person in particular who went to the hospital with heart problems and ended up catching Covid there. There have also been numerous cases of staff members of nursing homes spreading Covid to the patient’s. How is that possible if staff members are wearing masks?

Ever since the pandemic started I have not been to the doctor for an in person visit although I would like to go. In the beginning they would actively encourage you not to go into the doctor partly because they did not want you to catch Covid. In the past even before Covid there would often be sick people coughing in the waiting room and I got sick a couple times from things I caught at the doctor’s office. It just seems to me like Covid patients would be at the doctor. I work from home and get grocery delivery so I have not really been exposed to the virus since I try not to go out anywhere in public that is indoors. Where I live everyone has to wear a mask to the doctor.

Also what about if someone is coughing and maybe they removed their masks but they are in a room next to me or across the hall can it transfer to me? I remember at the doctors a few times I’ll be in the little back room and hear people coughing a lot in a room next to me or across the hall.

How much do I have to worry about Covid being transferred through the heating or cooling system from different parts of the building or from offices in the same clinic on different floors? I know I have heard of it being transferred by air conditioning although I don’t know how common that is, what about through heating is that he in the furnace hot enough to kill the virus? I also wonder about staff members who eat lunch in the office in the back room, obviously without a mask who may be sick. Just last week I was on the phone the doctor’s office and the person on the phone I was speaking with was coughing which makes me concerned. I have not been vaccinated.


Masking and social distancing reduce your risk, but they don’t reduce it to anywhere near zero. Vaccination does reduce your risk of serious disease and death to virtually zero.

If there are bona fide medical reasons why you cannot get vaccinated, N95 masks are now easy to find, and give you better protection, but still nowhere near the level of protection you get from vaccination. A cloth mask or a bandana are not effective at protecting you if others are not masked.

The short answer is “yes” you can catch COVID if everyone is wearing a mask.

As to how much you have to worry, that is almost impossible to calculate.

The single best thing you can do to reduce your risk is get vaccinated, assuming you are of an age where that is approved and don’t have a medical condition precluding vaccination. The best thing (IMO) about getting vaccinated is that even if you do get COVID it’s extremely unlikely to be serious and also extremely unlikely you will pass it to anybody else.

The other thing you can do is wear an N-95 or equivalent mask. A cloth mask or bandanna is on the low end of adequate protection.

There is a forum here where all of these questions have been explored, often in great depth. You might want to look at it.

Yes, but far less likely. Assuming you’re in an enclosed space, everyone would be emitting far fewer virus particles that escaped the masks, and also have a harder time inhaling each other’s virus particles. It would be tough for a virus to infect you.

And if you’re all outdoors, then it’s virtually impossible unless you’re crowding with many other people in the same place for a long time.

Wearing a bandana among unmasked unvaccinated people? I think “far less likely” is wide of the mark.

Last I heard, at least some of the vaccines are now approved for ages 12 and up, and this board has a minimum age of 13. So if you’re not of an age where you can be vaccinated, then you shouldn’t be posting here, either.

I agree, why are you not vaccinated?

My husband is an anti-vax trumper. I have been fully vaccinated since the beginning of March.

My husband has been suffering from COVID for a couple of weeks and it doesn’t look like he’s going to get better soon. When I say suffering, I really mean suffering.

We share a smallish 1500 sf home and we share a bed. He started shedding virus around the first of May.

I am not sick. I am positive that the only reason I am not sick is because I am vaccinated.

Get your jab/s.

I cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons. I used to wear 3M 8511 N95 masks when I was doing sanding and wore the ones I had during the early months of the pandemic. Eventually they got to grimy to wear anymore. Unfortunately the quality control at 3M has disappeared and the new masks I bought to replace them smell like chemicals and I cannot wear them because they make my asthma flareup. I have tried some other brands of N95 masks and they have the same problem they smell like chemicals. The masks didn’t have this problem before the pandemic started so they must have changed the way they produce them or gotten rid of quality control altogether.

That really sucks. If I was you, I would be very concerned as well. You will never find a place with 100% mask compliance and if your doctor doesn’t have a good HVAC system you could very well get infected there.

When I took my husband to urgent care, there was a sign on the door giving a number to call if it was COVID. I called and was directed to park behind the building (under some shade, thank goodness) and wait to be called because they needed to empty the room closest to the back door. My husband was let in when the room was available and came back out in about 10 minutes. He only had contact with 2 people during that time and they were both wearing full PPE.

I wonder if your doctors might have something like that available for folks who can’t be vaccinated. It sure wouldn’t hurt to ask.

I got mine from Demetech. I don’t have asthma, but they don’t appear to have the issues you describe with smelling of chemicals, and they are genuine. I prefer the “cup” style, which you can feel give a tight seal around your mouth when you inhale.

If you really cannot get on with N95s, here is a supplier of genuine KN95s. They are not as tight fitting as the cup-style N95, so not quite so effective, but much more comfortable. And still massively better than just a bandana.

Here’s a NY Times that reinforces that they are the real thing.
How to Buy a Real N95 Mask Online - The New York Times

What I would do is call ahead verify that everyone in the doctor’s office you plan to visit has been fully vaccinated. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask this, and to insist on a clear answer. This minimizes your risk if you feel you need to visit the doctor in person.

However, if it’s something minor, consider an online appointment - you can do it with video, this is much easier to set up now.

I was wearing these before the pandemic for wildfire smoke and allergies.

That article also has a link to “Project N95, a nonprofit that helps people buy protective coronavirus equipment.”

From their site:

We enable group purchases and manage last mile distribution for organizations seeking to buy smaller quantities, which keeps costs low and helps frontline workers avoid having to meet suppliers’ minimum order quantities. These services are the essence of our nonprofit mission.

Here’s the direct link to their product sales.

I would consider getting a second opinion on not getting vaccinated; even my 80 year old father-in-law who’s on immunosuppressants and has a chronic lung problem was able to get vaccinated, and he’s about as high-risk for catching it AND having issues from the vaccine as it’s possible to get.

These types of cloth masks generally provide poor filtration. Their benefit is mostly in preventing the wearer from spreading the virus. The mask will stop large droplets from escaping and will limit the distance that small droplets will travel. But they are only around 40-60% efficient at filtration. If there is virus in the air, there’s a good chance it can make it make it through the mask when you breathe in. Fortunately, the lower case numbers means that there’s less chance of virus being in the air than before, so the overall risk is much lower than it was at the start of the pandemic. But you should at least try surgical masks since they will be more in the 70-90% filtration range depending on fit.

Have you discussed this with your physician? A friend of mine needed a vaccine to travel to a country for work reasons. He knew receiving the vaccine was not safe for him, but there were no work-arounds available. His physician had him admitted to the hospital where he received the vaccine in a controlled setting (IV in place, crash cart, etc)

I’m trying to find medical conditions that prevent someone from getting a vaccine and I’m not coming up with much. If you’re undergoing some kinds of chemo, it says to discuss with the doctor. If you are allergic to some ingredient, it says don’t get that vaccine, but don’t they all have different ingredients?

OP, did your doctor say you couldn’t get any of the vaccines? Are there no workarounds?

The guy I mentioned had previously suffered anaphylaxis to a vaccine that had the same adjuvant as the one he was required to have for a visa.