Now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised people to use face coverings when they are out in public to slow the spread of the coronavirus, people are trying to buy, sew or otherwise MacGyver their own.

The CDC advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to help people who may have the virus but don’t know it yet from transmitting it to others. When people talk, cough or sneeze they may release tiny drops into the air that can infect others. If people are sick, face masks can reduce the number of germs they release, and protect others from becoming sick. A face mask also protects the wearer’s nose and mouth from splashes or sprays of body fluids.

It’s important to remember that the mask is mainly intended to protect others against you, not to protect you against others. Don’t be lulled into thinking that if you put on a mask, you’re covered from catching the virus entirely. It may provide some protection, but the best way to avoid infection is to distance yourself from others when you’re out, or just stay home. And no matter what, wash your hands.

The CDC does NOT recommend people try to acquire N95 respirators or surgical masks, which are critical supplies that need to be prioritized for healthcare workers and medical first responders. The kinds of masks recommended by the CDC are those you can make yourself, or the disposable kind you can buy online.


If you use a mask with loops, ties or bands that go around your head or ears, it’s important that you put it on and take it off properly to keep from exposing yourself to anything that might be on the mask. Here’s a few tips from the San Francisco CDC website:


Use a disposable face mask once, then throw it away. Do likewise if the mask becomes moist.

Clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer before touching the mask.

Make sure the mask has no tears or holes.

Find the top: The side of the mask that has a stiff, bendable edge is the top and is meant to mold to the shape of your nose.

Find the front: The colored side of the mask is usually the front and should face away from you.

For a face mask with ear loops, hold the mask by the loops and put a loop around each ear.


For a mask with ties, bring the mask to nose level, put the ties around the crown of your head and tie with a bow. Then take the bottom ties, one in each hand, and secure with a bow at the nape of your neck.

For a mask with bands around your head, hold it in your hand with the nose or top of the mask at your fingertips, with the bands hanging. Bring the mask to nose level and pull the top strap over your head, resting it over the crown of your head. Pull the bottom band over your head and rest it at the nape of your neck.


Wash your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer before touching the mask.

Don’t touch the front of the mask – that’s the contaminated part. Only touch the loops, ties or bands.

For a mask with ear loops: Hold both of the loops and gently lift and remove the mask.


For a mask with ties: Untie the bottom bow first, then untie the top bow and pull the mask away from you as the ties are loosened.

For a mask with bands: Lift the bottom strap over your head first, then pull the top strap over your head.

Throw the mask in the trash. Don’t re-use it.

Wash your hands again with soap and water or hand sanitizer.


Whether you make a cotton covering or use a scarf or bandana, here are tips from the U.S. CDC on wearing a cloth face covering. The CDC recommends wearing a face covering in settings where it may be difficult to distance yourself, like inside stores or pharmacies:


It should fit snugly but feel comfortable on your face.

It should be secured with a tie or ear loops.

It should include several layers of fabric.

It should let you breathe without restriction.

You should be able to launder and machine-dry it without damaging it or changing its shape:

Do not put a face covering on a child younger than 2, or on anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to take the mask off on their own.

Have more questions about how to protect yourself or your loved ones from coronavirus? Send them to and we’ll try to answer them.

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