COVID-19: Wearing cloth face coverings
As the world transitions back to “normal” (or our new normal), and stores and restaurants re-open, there will be more people out in the community. Even though restrictions are being lifted, COVID-19 (or Coronavirus Disease 2019) still can be spread from person to person. It is spread through “respiratory droplets” per the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO). Respiratory droplets come from an infected person when they cough, sneeze, exhale, or talk. If the droplets land on (or are inhaled by) a nearby person, it is possible the virus could spread to that person if the droplets land on the mouth, nose, or eyes. There also is a possibility for spreading the infection through touching objects an infected person has been in contact with (or releases respiratory droplets onto).
Due to the way the virus is spread, and how we’ve seen it spread so rapidly, most areas have required people to practice “social distancing” and wear masks in public.
These recommendations should be used in addition to washing the hands often with soap and water (for at least 20 seconds). When soap and water is not available, use hand sanitizer. Of course, people who feel sick (or know they have COVID-19) should stay home and avoid contact with others all together. For those who do venture into public places, try to stay at least 6 feet away from other people, also known as social distancing. Respiratory droplets usually travel about 6 feet, so keeping a distance from others can help prevent you from getting sick or getting others sick. Whenever you leave your home, especially in settings where it is difficult to keep the 6-foot distance, it is recommended for everyone (over the age of 2) to wear a mask (or cloth face covering), even if you do not feel sick. We have learned people may be infected without knowing it and spread the coronavirus even if they don’t have any symptoms. By wearing face coverings, there is an extra layer between the respiratory droplets traveling in the air onto other people. The CDC does say those children under two years old, people with trouble breathing, and/or those who are unconscious or unable to remove the mask themselves should not wear masks.
It is okay if you do not have a surgical or medical mask. In fact, the CDC prefers N-95 respirators and surgical masks are reserved for healthcare workers and first responders. The CDC recommends using a cloth face covering, which can be made from household items (see link below). It is important to wear the face covering correctly for it to be purposeful.
- Be sure to wash your hands prior to putting your face covering on.
- It should fit over your nose and mouth, fit snugly against the sides of the face, and be secured under the chin.
- Make sure you can breathe through the mask. When in public, keep the mask on the entire time.
- Do not put it around your neck, forehead, or move it to expose your nose or mouth.
- Avoid touching the face covering. If you touch the face covering, the CDC suggests washing your hands.
When you’re home, take off your face covering by only touching the ear loops or ties.
Wash your hands immediately after removing the mask and do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth until your hands are clean. Cloth face coverings should be washed after each use. The cloth face covering may be washed with your regular laundry in the washing machine, or by hand using a bleach mixture and rinsing thoroughly after. See the CDC link below for instructions on preparing a bleach solution. Dry the cloth face covering on the highest heat setting in the dryer or air dry (in the sun, if possible) and allow it to dry completely.
- How to make cloth face coverings (CDC):
- How to wash a cloth face covering (CDC):
- CDC resources: