The Washington State Department of Health and the CDC now recommend that we wear cloth face coverings in public places where we cannot reliably stay six feet away from other people. (DOH guidance on face masks.) This might include your weekly trip to the grocery store, or a necessary trip to the doctor’s office or pharmacy. Or it could be more frequent, if you are an essential worker, and your job unavoidably brings you within six feet of people.
We think cloth face coverings may reduce some additional spread, but, still, the best way to prevent spread of COVID-19 is washing your hands thoroughly and frequently, not touching your face, and staying at home as much as possible. Face coverings will not work without clean hands and good social distance. And don’t put a cloth face covering on a child under age two.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of mask should I use? We are not talking about hospital masks. We are talking about cloth face coverings made out of fabric you already have at home. It is important that we reserve surgical masks and N95 masks for health care providers who come into close contact with sick people all day. The rest of us do not need this level of protection. Cloth face coverings should cover your mouth and nose with multiple layers of fabric, allow for easy breathing, fit snugly against the side of your face, and be secured with ties or ear loops. And once you have it on, just leave it there! Try not to touch it or adjust it. When you remove it, be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, and wash your hands well right after you take it off.
I cannot sew and I am not at all crafty. What can I do? You do not need to know how to sew! In this 45 second video, the Surgeon General shows us how to make a cloth face covering out of a scarf, bandana, or t-shirt plus some rubber bands. No sewing, creativity, or bedazzling necessary!
Now that I have my face covered, am I 100% safe? You and the community are safest with us all at home. It’s important that we remember face coverings are just one additional layer of protection. A cloth face cover doesn’t protect us anywhere near as well as great hand washing and staying away from other people.
I am an essential worker. How often do I wear a face covering? If you have a job that makes it unavoidable for you to be six feet away from others, you can wear a cloth face covering all day. Just be sure to wash it at the end of the day.
How do I wash my cloth face covering? Wash your cloth face covering after each use, or at least daily. You can wash them in the washing machine, with detergent and hot water and dried on a hot cycle.
Practice compassion. Some of us will get COVID-19 and not have any symptoms at all or might be contagious before we get symptoms. If you decide to wear a cloth face covering, you are doing it to protect others from a virus you do not know whether you might carry. Wearing a cloth face covering in public places is an act of compassion.