CDC recommends people wear face masks when out in public

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began recommending people wear cloth mask or face coverings when out in public to help mitigate the spread of coronavirus.

The CDC recommends using face coverings in public places where other social distancing measures could be difficult to maintain, such as the grocery stores or pharmacies.

Simple cloth coverings made of household items can help to slow the spread of the virus.  CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield warned last week that as many as 25 percent of people infected with the coronavirus may not show symptoms. Even people who eventually develop symptoms can transmit the virus to others before showing any symptoms.

“The use of a cloth face covering was recommended because the CDC has found that people may be transmitting the virus before showing symptoms,” said Wendy Growcock, public health education specialist at the health department. “My face covering would protect you from my illness. Your face covering would protect me from your illness.”

Wearing the face covering is an additional public health measure in addition to practicing proper social distancing (staying at least six feet away from others), frequent hand washing and not touching the face.

The CDC recommends that cloth face coverings should not be placed on children younger than 2, anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance. People should not use medical masks, such as surgical masks and N95 respirators, since they are still in short supply and should be reserved for healthcare workers.

The face masks are only a recommendation; they are not mandatory.

Per the CDC, cloth face coverings should:

  • 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.

In order for the face masks to be effective, they need to cover the nose and the mouth and the thicker the material for the masks, the better. The masks should also be routinely washed, depending on the frequency of use.

People should avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth when removing the masks and immediately wash their hands after removal.

The CDC offers ways to create homemade coverings. If people are good with their hands, they can either use the traditional needle and thread method or try a sewing machine. The ideal fabric is cotton. A simpler option is folding a bandanna, scarf or a cut-out portion of a T-Shirt and securing them with rubber hands or hair ties.

For more information about face masks and how to create them, visit the CDC’s Cloth Face Covers section.