I have read that the masks commercially available to public consumers won't do much to protect you from inhaling the virus, but they might help prevent spreading it and other germs when you exhale. All this discussion goes to show there's a lot of confusing and potentially conflicting advice out there. All I can take from it is this, as JSN puts it: Act with prudence, not from panic. (Two more Elliott "P's"?)This ius correct from a medical perspective, but epidemics can extend beyond medical effects to economic and sociological effects. We see that here in the desire for some people to postpone or cancel travel. . I've witnessed some panic buying at local supermarkets.
I do not pretend to know what the likely effects of an epidemic would be. But I do think we need to remain calm; and if wearing a mask makes someone feel safer, or reminds them to use better hybeine, then maybe it is of vaule.