Wearing a Mask During COVID-19

April 14, 2020

As we continue to find ways to protect ourselves against COVID-19, we felt it was important to share information on proper mask usage.

As we continue to find ways to protect ourselves against COVID-19, we felt it was important to share information on proper mask usage. The varying levels of mask protection against COVID-19 include, in order of level of protection, N95 masks, surgical/earloop masks, and cloth or cotton masks.

General Instructions

  • N95 Masks: According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend that the public wear N95 respirators to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including coronavirus (COVID-19). Those critical supplies must continue to be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.
  • Surgical/Earloop Masks: See instructions below for proper use, storage and disposal.
  • Cloth Masks: See instructions below for proper use and laundering.

Wearing a mask only helps if you also follow social distancing (maintaining 6 feet distance), proper hand hygiene, and other methods!

Wearing masks protects others and you, but only if you wear one properly.

You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick, so wear a mask when you are within 6 feet of others that do not live in your household.

Please follow the directions below, to properly reuse your masks due to the global shortage.

When: In general, you should wear a mask when you are going to have close contact (less than 6 feet) with other human beings that you don’t live with, especially inside a building where you don’t have good air circulation (i.e. when going to the grocery store).

How: Wearing a mask properly is as important as wearing a mask.


Instructions for Surgical/Earloop Masks

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer, before you put on a mask.
  2. Determine which side of the mask is the top. The side of the mask with the stiff bendable edge is the top and is meant to mold to the shape of your nose.
  3. Determine which side of the mask is the front. The colored side is usually the front and should face away from you, while the white side touches your face.
  4. Pinch the stiff bendable edge over your nasal bridge to completely seal and cover your nose and mouth. If you wear glasses, they should sit on top of the mask and should not be foggy when you breathe, if you are wearing the mask properly.
  5. Pull the bottom of your mask down, so it is covering your mouth and chin.
  6. Never touch the outside of your mask. The outside is the “contaminated” side.
  7. Never touch the inside with unwashed hands.

Reuse and Storage

Ideally, all surgical/earloop masks are for single use. However, right now, there is a global shortage of supplies, so extended and proper reuse of masks is necessary.

  1. After use, your mask should be hung in a clean, dry, and ventilated place or be placed in a clean and ventilated paper bag. Your masks should not be stored with other’s masks to avoid cross-contamination.
  2. Do not wash your mask, use alcohol, or use heat to try to disinfect your mask. All of them will damage the filter layer.
  3. When a mask gets wet, it will gradually lose its protection ability. Therefore, we recommend not wearing one mask for a long time to avoid accumulating moisture. Instead, alternate two masks to maximize how long they last.
    • The mask needs to be replaced when it is contaminated by a patient’s blood, secretion from nasal or respiratory tracts, or other contaminated liquid.
  4. The accumulated time of using one surgical/earloop mask should not exceed 8 hours.

Removal/Disposal

  1. Clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer before touching the mask.
  2. Avoid touching the front of the mask. The front of the mask might be contaminated. Only touch the earloops/ties.
  3. When removing, carefully untie (or unhook from the ears) and pull away from face without touching the front of the mask.
  4. According to the FDA, to safely discard your mask, place it in a plastic bag and put it in the trash.
  5. Wash your hands after handling the used mask.

Instructions for Cloth Masks

The CDC now recommends that everyone should wear a cloth face cover when they have to go out in public, for example to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities.

Cloth face coverings should not be placed on:

  • young children under age 2
  • anyone who has trouble breathing
  • Anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance

General Tips

The material should cover both the nose and mouth.

  1. When removing the mask, carefully untie (or unhook from the ears) and pull away from face without touching the front of the mask.
  2. Dirty masks should be placed in a dedicated laundry bag or bin.
  3. Ideally, face coverings should be washed after each use.
  4. Use detergent and hot water when washing cloth masks. Dry them on a hot cycle.
  5. Be sure your mask is comfortable; you don’t want to have to keep adjusting the mask, because that means touching your face.
  6. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before and after touching your face or face coverings.
  7. If you must wear your cloth face covering again before washing it, wash your hands immediately after putting it back on and avoid touching your face.

Helpful Information Links:

References

  • Centers for Disease Control
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration

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