While the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic were filled with contradictory and confusing guidance on whether or not Americans should wear a mask or face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the guidance from the highest levels of the scientific community has been abundantly clear for months now - wear a face covering in any public indoor space and when you can not maintain social distancing in an outdoor setting.
The reason we should all wear face coverings in public is quite simple: face coverings help prevent you from spreading your germs to others and help others from spreading their germs to you.
The virus spreads "mainly from person to person, mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Spread is more likely when people are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).?" It can also spread by pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals, so wearing a cloth covering in public, even if you feel perfectly fine, can help prevent the spread of the virus to others.
As this CDC drawing shows, wearing a face covering helps prevent virus particles from freely spreading when you talk or cough.
It is true that face coverings aren't guaranteed to protect you from contracting COVID-19, but they undoubtedly help slow the spread of the virus, which is vital to bending the curve and helping make it so hospitals stay within capacity.
The CDC and Surgeon General Jerome Adams have also released a video which teaches us how to make a face covering out of items we can all find in our home:
Certainly makes sense. The CDC didn't do themselves any favors lying to the American public for the first few weeks of the outbreak though, so I can at least understand the confusion and mistrust some have with the CDC on this.
That said, the messaging has been on point and logically obvious for months now, like you said. For a while it wasn't easy for everyone to buy masks online and it took a while for everyone to understand how easy it is to make a face covering at home.
But at this point there is little excuse to not have one and wear it when you can't socially distance responsibly. Its the only tool we have against the spread, so its a solid compromise to 100% quarantine lock down measures.