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Two truths and a lie about wearing face masks

Wearing a mask is just one step in slowing the spread of COVID-19.

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More and more Americans are wearing face masks. But some still don't. That’s probably because there’s so much misinformation out there about whether they do more harm than good.


So, let’s play the “two truths and a lie” game. We'll list two facts and one false statement about wearing face masks. Read the following three statements and decide which are truths and which one is a lie. Then read on for more details about the “truths.”


  • A mask may not protect the person who wears it. But it may keep the wearer from spreading the virus to others.
  • All people 2 years of age and older should wear a mask in public. They should also wear a mask when around people who don’t live in their household.
  • Face masks that have colors and patterns don't work.

Let's spot the lie

OK, so maybe it was easy to spot the “lie.” Of course, some fashionistas may disagree. After all, if we need to wear face masks, we might as well look good, right?

Let’s go back to the first two statements, which are “truths.” These are the face mask basics. Efrem Castillo, MD, senior medical director at Optum, has more advice about face masks:

    • Wearing a mask whenever in public or around those outside your household is the single best way to bring the pandemic under control.
    • Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth. This will help protect others in case you have COVID-19 but don’t have symptoms.
    • When you talk, sneeze or cough, you release droplets into the air. If you have COVID-19, it can be in those droplets. Wearing a cloth mask can help stop you from spreading COVID-19. The more people wear a mask, the more we help protect each other. 
    • Surgical masks are better than cotton masks. But both are better than bandanas and balaclavas. They offer little protection.
    • Masks that tie around the head typically fit better than those that attach around the ears. A better fit gives you more protection.
    • Masks with air vents let out unfiltered air. They do nothing to protect people around you, so don’t use these.

Wearing a mask is just one step in slowing the spread of COVID-19. It should be used along with other preventive measures. These include:

    • Social distancing (staying six feet away from other people)
    • Washing yours hands often
    • Limiting in-person meetings
    • Staying home if you don’t feel well

Will Medicare cover a COVID-19 screening?

Medicare covers the lab tests for COVID-19. You pay no extra money. Medicare Advantage plans do, too. Check with your plan about what it covers and what the test costs.

Questions about COVID-19 symptoms?

Don’t wait. Make an in-person or video visit appointment now. Find an Optum Care location near you.


    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
    • Medicare (

The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.