Are face masks going to become like condoms — ubiquitous, sometimes fashionable, promoted with public service announcements? They should be, one virus researcher says, if early indications are correct in suggesting that Covid-19 is often spread by people who feel healthy and show no symptoms.

David O’Connor, who studies viral disease at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said: “If a substantial amount of transmission occurs before people feel sick, how do you stop that? By the time people feel sick and seek care, all the testing and isolation in the world would be too little, too late.”

Dr. O’Connor, who researches H.I.V. and other viruses, including the new coronavirus, said some recent research had shifted his thinking about the current pandemic.

“H.I.V. is also spread while people feel fine,” he wrote in an email, “and consistent, correct condom use is a barrier to sexual virus transmission that works.”

In another paper, which went online Friday in the journal Science, researchers reported that crab-eating macaques were susceptible to infection by the new coronavirus and that they appeared to be shedding the virus from their bodies almost as soon as they were infected.

The monkeys never developed visible symptoms, but the virus was detectable, and the monkeys’ lungs showed damage consistent with a Covid-19-like disease.

Barry Rockx, of Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands, one of the authors of the Science paper, said that the research showed the monkeys would be useful in testing treatments and vaccines. Also, he said, “It looks like the peak of shedding occurs very early on.”

If that is also true in humans, as the Nature Medicine paper found, “that could potentially explain why this virus is spreading so rapidly throughout the population,” Dr. Rockx said.

Social distancing for everyone helps with that problem, as would masks, which could benefit from the kind of innovation and promotion applied to condoms, Dr. O’Connor wrote in the email.

He said: “And just like there needed to be sex-positive, non-stigmatizing marketing to increase condom uptake to fight HIV, similar efforts will need to be taken to galvanize people to make mask wearing cool and essential. (Designer face masks? More comfortable face masks?)”

That’s happening too. One thing he didn’t mention, which could be the ultimate best seller, and which did not appear to be for sale in several internet searches — the Fauci face mask.

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