As COVID-19 continues to spread in the United States, the CDC has recommended wearing cloth face coverings in public when physical distancing is difficult to maintain.  Out and about in our communities, many Arizonans are following these recommendations. Studies continue to be published showing how COVID-19 can be spread through speaking, coughing, sneezing — including by people who don’t even know they’re sick.

Cloth face coverings aren’t medical in nature and don’t require any specific fabrics, chemicals, or disinfectants to work. They are simply barrier protections, creating a barrier between your face and the air around you. Cloth face coverings prevent you from spreading respiratory droplets and can prevent you from getting the virus from others.

There’s a lot of flexibility in what a cloth face covering can be.  A folded bandanna would work tied around your face (a la early Arizona cowboy days); an artsy one with ear elastics could be worn (see sewing instructions to make your own); your own scarf wrapped around your face will do the trick. For the general public, a simple cloth covering over your mouth and nose is all you need. Medical grade face masks are still in short supply and are not recommended for the general public.

Because cloth face coverings are new to many people, there are lots of questions about the right way to wear them. Here are some tips:

  1. Wear the cloth face covering in public, regardless of whether you feel sick or not.  This way you’re protecting yourself, your family, and others in the event you are infected and don’t have any symptoms.
  2. Wear the cloth face covering snugly (but comfortably) over your nose and mouth.  Don’t let the mask sit under your nose. If it gapes open, it’s not doing its job. If it hurts your ears, try one that ties behind your head instead of looping over your ears.
  3. Wear the cloth face covering without touching it.  Keep it on, over your mouth and nose, when speaking with others or when on the phone.  Try not to adjust your mask too much, and refrain from pulling on or touching the front of your mask.  Avoid reaching under your mask for an itch. If you need to remove or readjust your mask, do it by touching the ear loops or ties. Always wash or sanitize your hands after touching your mask.
  4. Wear the cloth face covering if you’re old enough to take it on and off yourself.  The CDC recommends not placing these on children under 2 years old.
  5. Wear the cloth face covering in public until you need to eat or drink, then make sure to keep it clean and uncontaminated. If you need to eat or drink in public, make sure you are more than 6 feet from others and then remove the mask and place it in a clean paper bag, container, or on a designated surface (like a new piece of paper on the far side of your desk).  Make sure you wash or sanitize your hands before eating. After putting your mask on again, make sure you wash or sanitize your hands. Wash your mask after each day’s use and store it in a clean bag or container.  

We all have a role in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Wearing a cloth face covering is one thing you can do to keep your family, co-workers, and community safe.