It’s a seemingly simple question that has divided experts and nations since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak: Should members of the public who aren’t sick use face masks to limit the spread of the disease?

For months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintained that the only people who needed to wear face masks were people who were ill or those who were treating them. That notion stemmed from the idea that basic medical masks do little to protect wearers, and instead primarily prevent sick people from spewing infectious droplets from their noses and mouths. Plus, limited supplies needed to be prioritized for frontline health workers. The World Health Organization agreed.

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