It's a sign of respect to wear a mask during a pandemic, says a Wollongong health expert, but he's not sure we should be forced to do so.
NSW has not yet made mask wearing mandatory, like some COVID hotspots in Victoria, but there are calls from state Labor for the government to give more clarity around their use.
On Tuesday NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she wouldn't yet follow Victoria's lead by enforcing mask use in public but urged that people wear masks where social distancing was impossible.
Dr Chris Degeling, from the Australian Centre for Health Engagement, Evidence and Values (ACHEEV) at Wollongong university, also believes there's a time, and a place, for masks.
Read more: State records 13 new COVID-cases overnight
"In terms of infection control the evidence is quite strong that masks are a good idea when there's lots of virus around - with various studies showing if you do wear a mask, the chance of infecting other people diminishes quite substantially," he said.
"There's a fine balance though. Making anything mandatory comes with risks attached, as it can disadvantage some people who are not able to do what's mandatory - for instance those with certain health conditions.
"But those who don't have a good reason not to wear a mask should do so, as a sign of respect and consideration for others, in situations like public transport where social distancing is difficult and there's a chance of catching - or spreading - the virus."
Discomfort was not a good reason for not wearing a face mask, Dr Degeling said.
"Mask wearing is something we have to get used to, and get used to doing so for a long time," he said.
"We had to use masks during the bushfire crisis to filter out smoke particles; in other countries masks have long been used to filter out air pollution and to protect others from things like colds and flu.
"Most Australians are not used to mask wearing but life is a bit different at the moment - so the unusual might have to be usual for a while."
Tips for making masks out of anything from bandanas to socks are popping up on social media, though Dr Degeling recommends the use of medical masks where possible.
"A medical-grade mask is what's recommended and these are single use. However if you don't have one available, a cloth mask is a decent substitute," he said.
"It should ideally consist of three to five layers and should be washed frequently - at least daily. Wash your hands before you put it on, and make sure it covers your mouth, nose and chin.
"But don't let perfect be an enemy of the good - any face covering is better than nothing when you're going to be in close contact with others."
Following the concerning rise in COVID-19 cases in Victoria, that state government has made face coverings mandatory for people living in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire.
The new rule will be enforced after 11.59pm on Wednesday July 22 - the fine for not wearing a face covering will be $200. However there will be some reasons not to wear a mask - such as for those who have a medical reason, kids under 12, those who have a professional reason or if it's just not practical, like when running.
Labor's health spokesman, Keira MP Ryan Park said the NSW government should clear up confusion on mask wearing in this state - for instance stipulate whether face masks should be worn on public transport.
"NSW is staring at a second wave and the time has come to end the confusion on masks," Mr Park said.
"The transport minister has himself said that socially distancing on public transport is not always possible.
"Our commuters are often on trains for more than an hour and a half. That is a long time in a confined space."
Mr Park also called on the government to detail the current stockpile of masks, and ensure adequate supply.
However Ms Berejiklian said social distancing remained more important, while NSW Health on Tuesday said it encouraged residents to avoid non-essential travel.
"What NSW Health and myself are worried about most at this moment in time is what people are doing when they're entering hospitality venues ... you can't wear a mask when you're having a meal," Ms Berejiklian told media. "That's where the biggest risk is at the moment, indoor events."
NSW Labor has also called on the government to ensure an adequate supply of masks and prevent price gouging - with reports some retailers were inflating prices for basic masks.
Our COVID-19 news articles relating to public health and safety are free for anyone to access. However, we depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.