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Taking a trip to the grocery store? Don’t forget your face cover or mask. In most areas, you are now required to secure a face covering before shopping the aisles. The recommendation for everyone to wear a face covering in public places comes from the direction of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), after further research has proved face coverings are critical in helping our communities fight COVID-19.
Why Do I Need a Face Covering?
An editorial was published in July by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), proving that cloth face coverings could reduce the spread of coronavirus, especially when used universally within communities. “We are not defenseless against COVID-19,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus — particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families and their communities.”
There is also new evidence that supports cloth face coverings help prevent people who already have coronavirus from spreading their germs to others. Since it is possible to have COVID-19 and not show symptoms, it’s important for all people to wear a face mask — even if they think they’re healthy. If you have the virus and are asymptomatic, the mask can help stop the spread, and if you do not have the virus and are healthy, your mask may prevent you from catching the virus from someone else.
The CDC recommends that we wear cloth face coverings in public settings and when around people who don’t live in the same household, especially when social distancing is difficult to maintain.
What Type of Mask Should I Wear?
A cloth face mask is suitable for most people, aside from healthcare workers. Anyone interacting directly with those who have been diagnosed with, or suspected of having, COVID-19, need professional respirators. Otherwise, a cloth mask, either purchased or homemade, will provide protection.
A cloth mask isn’t medical-grade, but since we know that the virus causing COVID-19 is transmitted through large respiratory droplets, such as through coughing or sneezing, the cloth covering will help prevent those droplets from getting into your system if you’re out in public.
If you’re making your own mask at home or looking for one online, consider cotton over another material, like leather. With a leather mask, air is likely to go around the edges, making it less effective. In general, we should avoid any mask made of material that makes it difficult to breathe while wearing.
In a study published by the American Chemical Society, researchers from the University of Chicago tested the filtration efficiencies of common fabrics, including cotton, silk, and polyester-spandex chiffon. The scientists found that masks made with a combination of fabrics, such as high thread count cotton with two layers of chiffon, were nearly as effective as an N95 medical-grade mask, filtering out 80–99% of particles when tested.
At AdventHealth, our medical experts agree that multi-fabric masks can provide the best protection, just ensure they’re being worn correctly and don’t have any gaps around your face.
Face Mask Hygiene
Before putting on or removing your cloth face mask, wash your hands thoroughly to prevent any germs from your hands spreading into your respiratory system. To help ensure the effectiveness of your face covering, also consider these tips:
Avoid touching the mask while it’s on your face
Put on and remove your mask by the ear loops or ties rather than touching the front of the mask
Sanitize your cloth mask often, either by hand washing or putting it in the washing machine
Who Shouldn’t Wear a Face Covering?
The great majority of people should be wearing masks in public settings. However, according to the CDC, face coverings should not be worn by:
Anyone who has trouble breathing
Anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the covering without assistance
Children younger than age two
The CDC also recognizes that in certain situations, adaptations and alternatives will need to be considered when wearing a mask isn’t feasible.