Where & When Should You Be Wearing a Mask in Public?

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic — an ever-evolving story in the realm of public health, as scientists and medical professionals learn more about the way the virus moves between people — there’s been evolving guidance on what to do about wearing face masks in public. While initially health professionals advised that only people who are sick or caring for sick people should wear masks in public, the amount of asymptomatic cases and cases of individuals carrying the virus without knowing it has led to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advising more people wear “cloth face coverings” when out in public.

Since quarantine/social distancing time has brought on a whole new era of mom-shaming, it’s sometimes hard to know what exactly the latest guidance means for you and your family. For starters, it does not mean that regular civilians should be wearing surgical masks or N-95 respirator masks: “Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.”

What they do mean is to use “simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus,” specifically in areas where other social distancing measures are harder to maintain like grocery stores, pharmacies or if you live in a densely populated area with “significant community-based transmission.” These can be DIY masks or a bandana-type covering made from household materials that can add yet another layer to help when paired with other social distancing measures.

What makes a good face covering?

According to the CDC, you want a face covering to do the following:

  • fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • be secured with ties or ear loops
  • include multiple layers of fabric
  • allow for breathing without restriction
  • be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape (and you want to do this regularly depending on how frequently you’re using it)

For additional safety, they also add that “Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age two, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.”

The CDC’s face covering page also includes two DIY tutorials making sew and no-sew masks from a T-shirt and a bandana, respectively.

If preparation soothes your brain, check out our guide to assembling your own coronavirus preparedness kit:

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