Coronavirus Updates and Resources

5 Things to Know about Face Masks and COVID-19 Prevention

Published on April 09, 2020


Since the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak has gone from calm to critical in recent weeks, there has been conflicting information in the news regarding protective face masks. Back in March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised the public against the use of masks with the exception of those who were sick or caring for someone with COVID-19.  The U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams, also previously urged the public to stop buying face masks. As more information about COVID-19 has come to light, the federal government and several public health organizations have changed their stance on the use of masks and have released new guidelines.

To clear up some of the confusion regarding masks, here are answers to common questions: 

1) Should I wear a face mask when I go outside?

As of April 3, the CDC now recommends wearing homemade cloth masks and face coverings in public settings, such as grocery stores and pharmacies. This even applies to people who are not sick and have no symptoms. This new recommendation is intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers (people who do not know they have the virus) from transmitting it to others.

It’s important to note that the CDC still emphasizes that washing hands and maintaining a six-foot distance from others are still the most effective ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. So if you must go out in public, be sure to keep a safe distance even while wearing a cloth mask.

2) What kind of mask do I need for coronavirus?

Under this new recommendation, healthy individuals are advised to wear homemade cloth masks, scarves, or bandanas. According to the CDC, protective masks can be made from household items at a low cost. The CDC advises against the use of N95 respirators or surgical masks since they are in short supply. These masks should be reserved for health care workers who are exposed to the coronavirus on a daily basis.

3) Do homemade masks actually work to prevent coronavirus?

According to two occupational health experts from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, wearing a cloth mask if you are infected can reduce the spread of coronavirus, but doesn’t prevent it altogether. Without a protective, tight seal around the nose and mouth, these masks can’t trap every viral droplet. Cloth masks are considerably less effective than N95 respirators and surgical masks, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear one in public. The point of wearing the cloth masks is to safeguard others around you in case you are infected and asymptomatic.

4) How do I make face mask for coronavirus?

Here are few helpful links to designs and instructions forcreating your own makeshift mask:

5) Do I need to clean my face mask?

Cloth masks and face coverings should be washed after each use. Once you’ve returned from the grocery store or pharmacy, put the used mask in the laundry or throw it away if it’s disposable. Wash the mask in the washing machine, then dry on high heat.  If you are still using a N95 respirator or surgical mask you already had on hand, you can reuse it – but it won’t be as effective since these masks are intended for single use. It should only be reused by the same person and placed in a paper bag in between use. 

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This article is for general information and should not be relied on as medical advice. Check with a medical professional for medical advice.

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