The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends that everyone wear a mask when in public during the coronavirus pandemic. The CDC recommends using a cloth mask that can be created from cheap materials or household items, such as a T-shirt.

Going forward, the most important way you can protect yourself from the virus, as well as others, is to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to you. However, it is important to continue wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, even after you have been vaccinated.

Medical-grade masks, such as surgical or N-95 masks, need to be reserved for those who need them most and should only be worn by healthcare workers or first responders. Learn more about the type of mask that is right for you.

Wearing a homemade mask is particularly important in places where maintaining a distance of 6 feet or more from other people is difficult, such as the grocery store or pharmacies.

It is also one of the many reasons why the University of Maryland Medical System's visitor restrictions require every person entering a hospital or physician practice to wear a face mask at all times.

What Face Covers Do

Novel coronavirus infects others through droplets. These droplets can be projected into the air when someone speaks, coughs or sneezes. Risk of coronavirus transmission through these droplets is higher when people are in close proximity to one another.

Cloth masks contain those droplets and keep them from projecting into the air, reducing the likelihood of transmission. This is particularly important when normal social distancing measures are difficult to follow, such as getting groceries or medications at a pharmacy.

Masks mainly keep you from unknowingly spreading the disease to others, but some studies indicate that they may help protect you from large droplets and serve as an indirect reminder to avoid touching your face.

Homemade masks are not a replacement for social distancing measures. You should still do everything you can to prevent coronavirus infection, including avoiding close contact with other people and washing your hands frequently.

Why Wear a Cloth Mask?

Face masks are necessary to protect others from novel coronavirus.

Some people who have coronavirus are asymptomatic, meaning they have no symptoms. Some with the virus have no symptoms but will go on to develop coronavirus symptoms; they are considered pre-symptomatic. Studies have shown that asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people are potentially contagious and can unknowingly infect others

In light of this information, the CDC has recommended wearing a face mask to reduce transmission and keep people who are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic from infecting others.

Who Should Wear a Homemade Mask?

Wearing a homemade mask is voluntary, but the CDC recommends that most people should wear them. There are some exceptions to this recommendation.

The following people should not wear them:

  • Children under two years old
  • People with breathing problems
  • People who can't remove the mask without assistance, such as those who are incapacitated or disabled

Coronavirus Mask Usage and Care

Effective coronavirus masks will fit snugly against the face when worn. When removing them, it is important to avoid touching your face – especially your eyes, nose and mouth. Wash your hands immediately after removing the mask.

Masks should be cleaned after every wear. This frequency will vary depending on how often you need to wear the mask. The CDC recommends using a machine washer and dryer for proper cleaning. Read more about cleaning for coronavirus.

Make Your Own Mask

There are many ways to make a cloth mask at home. Not all of these methods require a sewing machine.

Homemade masks must meet these basic requirements:

  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the sides of the face
  • Be secured with ties or ear loops
  • Have multiple layers of fabric
  • Allow for unrestricted breathing
  • Able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or shape changes

To see approved ways to make a face cover, visit the CDC website.

Learn More

Updated 12/18/2020

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