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Should You Wear a Mask Outdoors?

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woman in mask runs down a beach path at sunset

Photo: ParinPix (Shutterstock)

Masks protect us from the coronavirus, indoors as well as out. But do you really need a mask outdoors? In some cases, you can go bare-faced, but you should still have a mask in your pocket just in case. Let’s talk about the factors you should consider when deciding if a mask makes sense outdoors. (When in doubt, wear one anyway.)

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Outdoor air dilutes the virus

One of the problems with indoor environments is that some of the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus are tiny. Indoors, the air containing these droplets has nowhere else to go. That’s why outdoor dining makes more sense than eating indoors, for example. The risk isn’t zero; there have definitely been super-spreader events at backyard parties and very likely a certain Rose Garden political event.

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Many factors contribute to whether an interaction is likely to be a higher or lower COVID risk, and being outdoors generally takes the risk down a notch.

Brief encounters are low risk

Next we have to consider what you’re doing outdoors. Considering that Rose Garden event for a moment, should you wear a mask if you know you’re going to be near other people for hours, shaking hands and hugging? Absolutely. In fact, you probably shouldn’t go at all. That goes double if you know the other guests have been disregarding safety measures until now.

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But passing somebody when you’re out jogging is a different scenario. To understand this more intuitively, it may make more sense to think of someone with bad breath or who has been smoking recently. Would the scent be overwhelming if you’re in the same park with a few such people? Or would you just detect a mild whiff as they pass you on the trail?

Very brief encounters, like passing someone as you jog or bike past them, may not be zero risk, but they are very low risk. “Any single brief, passing exposure is low-risk, but such exposures might add up over time,” airborne transmission expert Linsey Marr told the South China Morning Post. Wearing a mask makes sense if you’ll be encountering many people while you’re outside. It’s also a reasonable precaution even if you won’t.

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Decide based on circumstances

It makes sense to think of the different layers of safety, and use a mask as one of them. If you’re outdoors, exposures are short, and people are nearly always more than six feet away, the mask doesn’t add much protection. If you’ll be encountering many people—for example, on a busy city street—a mask is a helpful safety layer to include.

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I don’t wear a mask for most of my outdoor walks and runs, but that’s because I know I’m unlikely to come within six feet—or even ten feet—of anybody else. I go for walks on a quiet neighborhood street where I rarely pass anyone and can cross the street if I do. I go for runs on paths where I’m often the only person there.

But since I prefer to jog without a mask, I’ve given up my favorite running path, the one where I’d probably pass at least one or two people each minute. (If I did jog there, I’d definitely wear a mask; but since most other people on that trail are maskless, it feels like it’s not worth the risk.)

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There is no official answer as to whether you should wear a mask outside. The CDC suggests that if you can’t stand wearing a mask when exercising, you should consider moving your workout outdoors. The University of Maryland Medical System says that masks aren’t needed if you’re outdoors alone, but that if you’re jogging down the sidewalk you should mask up. If your city or state gives guidelines for when to wear a mask outdoors, follow those. If not, consider the factors above and wear a mask anyway when in doubt.

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Conquer Your Pup’s Dander and Fur With $700 Off a Cobalt or Charcoal Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Cobalt) | $200 | Best Buy

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Charcoal) | $200 | Best Buy

Allergies can be bad enough as the seasons change. Don’t let pet hair and dander add to that by vacuuming it up early and often. That chore is easier said than done— unless you have a robot vacuum to do the work for you. This lovely bright cobalt Bobsweep PetHair Plus robot vacuum and mop, only $200 today at Best Buy seems like an ideal option. That’s a whopping $700 off, by the way.

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You can get the same deal for the charcoal version of the robot vac, too. This model is not only specially made for picking up pet hair, it self docks and charges when it’s finished with the work.

It also comes with a mop attachment, so it can take care of those kitchen floors for you as well. Grab it while it’s still available for this fantastic price!

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Apple will replace AirPods Pro for free with faulty noise cancellation, static or crackling

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Today, exactly one year after Apple first launched the AirPods Pro — and thus the same day the very first AirPods Pro owners will see their one-year warranties expire — Apple has launched a repair program that offers free repairs or replacements for another whole year if your AirPods Pro experience issues with noise cancellation or static.

Specifically, Apple will fix:

Crackling or static sounds that increase in loud environments, with exercise or while talking on the phone

Active Noise Cancellation not working as expected, such as a loss of bass sound, or an increase in background sounds, such as street or airplane noise

Apple says only a “small percentage of AirPods Pro” are affected by the issues, but it apparently wasn’t just an early batch — Apple says affected units were manufactured “before October 2020,” meaning every AirPods Pro ever made might be eligible. That’s quite a recall if so. Apple says it will repair faulty AirPods Pro for two years after you first buy them.

We’ve heard complaints about degraded noise cancellation before, and at least one Verge editor has replaced their AirPods Pro under warranty. It’s nice to hear that Apple isn’t just cutting buyers off as soon as that warranty expires.

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This 55″ 4K TCL Smart TV Hangs on Your Wall for $200

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Best Tech DealsBest Tech DealsThe best tech deals from around the web, updated daily.

TCL 55″ S434 4K Smart TV | $200 | Best Buy

Best Buy has an insane deal going for a brand new 55″ 4K TCL smart TV. It’s the S434, which is pretty baseline for TCL’s lineup, but at just $200, there’s little to complain about. TCL’s panels are plenty sharp and accurate, and with this set, you’ll get HDR10 compliance for enhanced color and brightness in supported games and video content. This model has Android TV onboard for all your app needs, and with an included voice remote, all your favorite content is just a shout away with the help of Google Assistant.

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