The best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 and its variants is to stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccination, which means receiving a primary series and booster doses when eligible, as recommended by the CDC. In addition, while COVID-19 is still actively circulating, wearing a mask maximizes your own protection and helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 to others.

UMMS recommends that individuals continue to wear masks in most public indoor spaces. This is critical if you or your household members are not up to date with COVID-19 vaccination, not yet eligible for vaccination, e.g., young children, or may not respond to vaccination, e.g., immunosuppressed individuals. Masking is also recommended when gathering indoors with a large number of individuals outside your household or workplace.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends you decide whether to wear a mask based on your personal risk in regard to COVID-19, based on:

See the CDC’s recommendations for when to wear a mask.

University of Maryland Medical System visitor restrictions and universal masking policy require every person entering one of our hospitals or physician practices to wear a face mask.

We strongly encourage use of a well-fitting, high-quality mask, such as an N95 or KN95, that covers the nose and mouth at all times without any gaps. Cloth masks are allowed, but medical masks are preferred. Neck gaiters and masks with exhalation ports are not allowed.  Learn more the best type of mask to protect you from COVID.

Masks should completely cover the nose and mouth without any gaps.

Generally, masks are not required in outdoor settings. However, depending on your risk level, you may want to consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings where maintaining a distance of six feet or more from other people is difficult as well as for activities that involve close contact with others who are not up to date on vaccination.

You should also adhere to your local mask mandates and continue following other standard COVID-19 safety measures whenever possible (staying at least six feet away from others, not touching your face, washing/sanitizing your hands often, etc.).

Masks are especially important for people who have a medical condition or are taking medications that weaken their immune system and thus may not be fully protected against COVID-19 even if they are up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations.

Why Masks Are Important

Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) can infects others through droplets that are projected into the air when someone speaks, coughs or sneezes. The risk of COVID-19 transmission through droplets is higher when people are in close proximity to one another.

Masks can contain those droplets and keep them from projecting into the air, reducing the likelihood of transmission. They are particularly helpful in places where social distancing measures can be difficult to follow. Choose a mask with layers, as it will prevent more respiratory droplets from getting inside your mask or escaping from your mask if you are sick. Especially when in indoor public places and in the presence of others, do not remove or pull down your mask to cough or sneeze. Not only do our masks protect us from other people's respiratory droplets, but they are also designed to contain our own droplets. It is OK to cough and sneeze in your mask.

Remember that masks are not a replacement for social distancing measures or vaccination. Continue to do everything you can to prevent coronavirus infection, including avoiding close contact with other people and washing your hands frequently.

Mask-Wearing While Traveling

Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth is required on any form of public transportation (except school buses) traveling into, within, or out of the United States, including:

  • Planes
  • Buses
  • Trains

You must also appropriately wear a mask while indoors at U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and train stations. Travelers are not required to wear a mask in outdoor areas of a conveyance (e.g., open deck areas of a ferry or the uncovered top deck of a bus).

Coronavirus Mask Usage and Care

An effective mask fits snugly against the face without any gaps. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before putting on a mask, and try not to touch the mask while wearing it. A mask that constantly has to be adjusted should be an indication that it simply doesn't fit you properly and needs to be replaced.

Disposable face masks should be thrown away after use. Always wash your hands after handling a used mask.

Updated 3/22/2022

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