Understanding universal masking recommendations
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the U.S. Surgeon General, recommend the practice of universal masking when in public and interacting with others.
Universal masking, in addition to the practices of physical distancing and proper hygiene, helps curb the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
What does “universal masking” mean? It means that everyone (if able) should wear a mask. There are some exceptions, including children under the age of two, anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
Medical-grade masks, such as surgical masks or N95s, should be reserved for medical personnel only during this critical time. Therefore, the CDC recommends cloth masks for community members.
There are tutorials for making masks with, and without, a sewing a machine. Some tutorials call for the use of common items, such as t-shirts and bandanas, with no sewing required.
A person should wear a cloth mask if they must leave the home for any public setting such as a grocery store, gas station, pharmacy or other essential business. A person should also wear it if they are interacting with anyone outside the home for any reason.
Wearing a cloth mask is not guaranteed to prevent someone from contracting COVID-19, and it is important physical distancing (staying at least 6 feet from others) is still practiced while wearing one.
Studies show a significant portion of individuals infected with COVID-19 do not show symptoms and that even those who eventually develop symptoms can transmit the virus before showing symptoms. Wearing a cloth mask can help to keep respiratory secretions (where the virus can live) contained and prevent them from spreading to others. A mask can also prevent individuals from touching their nose and mouth, where the virus can easily be spread.
Cloth masks should be routinely washed in a washing machine, or with soap and water, depending on frequency of use.
Individuals should be careful not to touch their eyes, nose and mouth when removing their mask, and wash hands immediately after removing.