Should runners wear coronavirus face masks outside?

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New York requires people to wear face coverings when in close proximity to others in public. As people grow wearier of the extended lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, some residents complain that requirement infringes on individual liberties.

Since April 17, everyone in New York state has been required to wear a face covering in any place where they can’t stay at least 6 feet from people who don’t live with them. Only children younger than 2 and people with a medical excuse are exempt.

Yet, while the rule is clear, New Yorkers have adopted their own interpretations of when masks are required in virus-stricken Big Apple.

Eric Leventhal, 36, felt a sneeze coming and panicked.

The Brooklynite left his cloth face mask at home for a morning run in a park last week. Walking home, he turned toward an empty street and let the sneeze out, hoping no one would notice.

“I picked my head up and I caught eyes with a woman who was wearing a mask, an older woman,” Leventhal recalled recently. “She was just kind of shaking her head.”

As warmer weather beckons people outside, more chances emerge for confrontations between mask-believers and mask-doubters.

“Everything is fraught with life-and-death consequences, and it’s just hard to grapple with that at any one moment,” said Leventhal, the runner. “That’s a long way of saying, I should be wearing one, probably, but it’s difficult when you run, so I don’t.”

What are the rules for Leventhal?


Should runners wear a face mask outdoors?

It depends. You won’t always need a face covering while jogging or riding a bike if you’re exercising with no one around, but it’s good to carry one just in case.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people wear cloth face coverings when out in public, especially in places where it’s hard to stay at least 6 feet away from others.

If it’s difficult to breathe through a mask when running or doing other strenuous physical activity, find uncrowded trails or times to exercise when you won’t encounter others, says Mark Cameron, an infectious disease expert at Case Western Reserve University.

The more distance you can keep between yourself and others, the better, says Summer Johnson McGee, dean of the University of New Haven’s School of Health Sciences.

Masks are designed to prevent the wearer from possibly spreading the virus to others or being exposed themselves.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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