Woman wearing face mask

Protect yourself and your community by wearing a mask

This article was updated December 7, 2020, to reflect new information from the CDC.

As the pandemic continues, scientists and medical professionals are learning more and more about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) every day.

That explains 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 masks whenever you leave your home, maintaining physical distance and washing your hands are the best ways to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Wearing a mask also protects you, the wearer, from contracting the virus.

Now, new guidance emphasized by the CDC on December 4, 2020, indicates face masks should be worn whenever you leave your home and, in addition, in your home if you are living with someone who has symptoms of COVID-19 or has been exposed to someone with the virus. Wearing a mask can reduce the amount of infectious droplets inhaled by the wearer.

The protective benefits are also more effective if people wear masks any time they are around others and if they wear them correctly, according to the CDC.

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. Physical 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.

Pile of Face MasksThe CDC recommends the following:

  • Fit the mask snugly to your face.
  • Make sure the mask covers your nose and mouth and is secure under your chin.
  • 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. Use the warmest water recommended for the fabric and dry on high heat.
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth when removing your mask.
  • Wash your hands immediately before putting on the mask and 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 instructions on our website as well.

Protect your community

The CDC recommends all people 2 years of age or older wear a mask whenever they leave their home and when around people who don’t live in their household. This is especially true when physical distancing guidelines are difficult to maintain.

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.

Last Updated: December 7, 2020

About Author: Kirk Wessler

After being a writer for OSF HealthCare for three years, Kirk Wessler retired in January 2022. A Peoria native and graduate of Bradley University, Kirk's experience included working for newspapers in Missouri, Texas and the Peoria Journal Star.

Kirk and his wife, Mary Frances, have five sons, four daughters-in-law and nine grandchildren. Kirk plans to spend his retirement on the golf course, mastering the guitar and traveling.

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Categories: COVID-19