< Masks

Do I have to wear a mask if I already had COVID-19?

Text updated on 2020-05-03

Yes, because of the uncertainties about the duration of COVID-19 and the contagious periods, it is recommended that everyone wears a mask. It is never clear who is immune or who is contagious. Everyone should contribute to providing a barrier to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus!

Currently, we don't have enough hindsight to know whether after having COVID-19, a person is immune (and won't be able to get it a second time). A few patients have tested positive for COVID-19 several weeks after symptoms have disappeared and after testing negative several times. At this time, it is not known whether the results of these initial tests were false negatives (i.e., they did not detect the virus while it was present, for example, if the sample was taken incorrectly), or whether the patients caught COVID-19 a second time. Another possibility is that the virus remained continuously, at low doses, in these patients before increasing in concentration in the secretions during a second phase. Even though the doses found in cured patients are often low, and our knowledge of the possibility of a second infection is reduced, it is prudent to wear a mask even if you appear to be cured. In addition, you will set a good example to others and wearing the mask will reassure the people you meet.

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Four patients became positive for the virus again 5-13 days after their symptoms disappeared and after two consecutive negative tests.

Lan, L., Xu, D., Ye, G., Xia, C., Wang, S., Li, Y., & Xu, H. (2020). Positive RT-PCR test results in patients recovered from COVID-19. Jama.

One case of a patient who tested positive for the virus after two negative tests.

Chen, D., Xu, W., Lei, Z., Huang, Z., Liu, J., Gao, Z., & Peng, L. (2020). Recurrence of positive SARS-CoV-2 RNA in COVID-19: A case report. International journal of infectious diseases: IJID: official publication of the International Society for Infectious Diseases, 93, 297-299. Advance online publication.

Patients who have been treated have tested positive for the virus after two negative tests.

Xiao, A.T., Tong, Y.X. and Zhang, S. (2020), False-negative of RT-PCR and prolonged nucleic acid conversion in COVID-19: Rather than recurrence. J Med Virol. Accepted Author Manuscript. doi:10.1002/jmv.25855

Further reading

Why put on a mask?

What are the different types of masks?