This article was updated July 22, 2020, to reflect new information from the CDC.
This pandemic disease is called novel coronavirus (COVID-19) because it’s new to humans. Scientists and medical professionals are learning more about the virus every day.
That helps explain why official recommendations and guidelines to keep you and your community safe continue to evolve.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wearing a mask in public, maintaining physical distance and washing your hands are the best ways to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Protect critical medical supplies
First, do NOT use surgical masks or N-95 respirators, both of which are critical supplies that must be reserved for exclusive use by health care workers and first responders.
Second, do not use cloth face coverings on children under 2 years old. Nor should such masks be used by people who have trouble breathing or who might struggle to remove the mask without help.
Mask use and maintenance
COVID-19 can be spread by tiny droplets that get into the air when we cough, sneeze or even laugh or talk. Social distancing limits the risk of exposure to those droplets. Wearing a mask also can help contain the droplets you emit, but it’s important to construct and wear the mask properly.
The CDC recommends the following:
- Fit the mask snugly to your face.
- Secure the mask with ties or earloops.
- Your mask should have multiple layers but allow you to breathe without restriction.
- Machine wash and dry your mask routinely.
- Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth when removing your mask.
- Wash your hands immediately after removing the mask.
Do It Yourself masks
You can easily create your own mask, even if you are not handy with needle and thread.
Masks can be fashioned from T-shirts, bandanas, napkins or virtually any remnant of cotton fabric. Rubber bands, string, cloth strips or hair ties can be used as fasteners.
The CDC website offers step-by-step tutorials for creating masks. The instructions include “sew” and “no sew” versions.
If you would like to make masks and donate them to Mission Partners at OSF, you can find those on our website as well.
Protect your community
Initially, the CDC did not advise people to wear face masks in public. One reason was to protect the supply for use by health care professionals and first responders. That remains a top priority.
Another reason was because face masks like the ones discussed here don’t offer significant protection for the person wearing the mask.
Recently, however, medical professionals have determined that COVID-19 can be transmitted by a person without symptoms. That could be a person who is sick but showing no symptoms, or even a person who has been infected but not yet fallen ill.
So this is about you taking steps to protect your community.