Cloth face coverings can help slow the spread of COVID-19 and help those who may have the virus but don’t know it from transmitting it to others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations. You can make your own cloth face covering by following these instructions.
While people who are sick or know that they have COVID-19 should isolate at home, COVID-19 can be spread by people who do not have symptoms and do not know that they are infected. That’s why it’s important for everyone to practice social distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from other people) and wear cloth face coverings in public settings. Cloth face coverings provide an extra layer to help prevent the respiratory droplets from traveling in the air and onto other people.
The CDC provides the following tips on how to wear a face covering:
- Keep the covering on your face the entire time you’re in public.
- Don’t put the covering around your neck or up on your forehead.
- Don’t touch the face covering, and, if you do, wash your hands.
In addition to wearing a face covering, remember to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol – cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Download this resource for more on how to protect yourself and others.
While at the workplace, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), consistent with the CDC, generally recommends employers encourage workers to wear face coverings at work. Wearing cloth face coverings, if appropriate for the work environment and job tasks, conserves other types of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as surgical masks, for healthcare settings where such equipment is needed most.
Where cloth face coverings are not appropriate in the work environment or during certain job tasks (e.g., because they could become contaminated or exacerbate heat illness), employers can provide PPE, such as face shields and/or surgical masks, instead of encouraging workers to wear cloth face coverings. Like cloth face coverings, surgical masks and face shields can help contain the wearer’s potentially infectious respiratory droplets and can help limit spread of COVID-19 to others. Note that cloth face coverings are not considered PPE and cannot be used in place of respirators when respirators are otherwise required. It is important to note that cloth face coverings are not a substitute for social distancing measures.