Cover Your Face During Coronavirus
Cover Your Face During Coronavirus
For the past few months, public health officials have advised that healthy people should not wear masks as a way to protect themselves from coronavirus. But as we learn more about the virus, more experts are challenging the official guidance and saying that there is probably some benefit to covering our faces in public.
For now, commercially made masks are virtually impossible to find. Many people have hoarded masks in recent months, and everyone agrees that any available supply of medical masks should be reserved for hospitals and emergency workers. That means if you want a mask, you probably have to make it yourself. More on that shortly.
“Cover your face with cloth — however you want to do that,” said Shan Soe-Lin, a lecturer at the Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs who was a co-author of a widely shared article about the need to cover your face. “Cover your face pretty thoroughly from your mouth to your nose to prevent large aerosol droplets coming out or going in.”
The highest quality, most expensive medical masks — called N95 respirator masks — should be reserved for hospital workers and emergency responders who are regularly exposed to high viral loads from infected patients, both from frequent contact as well as medical procedures that can spew tiny viral particles into air. The rest of us don’t need that level of protection. If you’re not a health care worker and you have a stash of N95 masks or standard surgical masks, consider donating it to a hospital.
If you’re staying home and nobody in your family is infected, you don’t need a mask most of the time. But more experts now say that wearing a nonmedical or homemade mask to go the grocery store or pharmacy may be a good idea. Studies of mask use to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses, including SARS, another form of coronavirus, show a simple mask can lower risk of infection. The effect is greatest when masks are used along with hand hygiene and social distancing.
What to Use to Cover Your Face During Coronavirus
The thicker the fabric, the better: think heavy cotton T-shirt or a thick, felt-like fabric, said Linsey Marr, a Virginia Tech scientist and an expert in the transmission of viruses in the air. While some people have suggested using a bandanna, the fabric is typically so thin and flimsy that it would likely offer little protection. Double or triple the bandanna fabric if that’s all you have.
How to Make a Mask to Cover Your Face During Coronavirus
There aren’t yet official guidelines on what qualities homemade masks must have; we’re really operating on a something-is-better-than-nothing principle here, and that goes for your crafting skills and materials as well.
Jo-Ann Stores is furnishing free, pre-cut mask-making materials for donations to hospitals, including curbside pickup. A tutorial they recommend, which comes from Froedtert Hospital & the Medical College of Wisconsin, suggests looking for 100 percent cotton, like denim or percale, and not stretchy or knit materials like a T-shirt, which could be too thin. Their rule of thumb is that if you fold the fabric in two layers, you shouldn’t be able to see through it but should still be able to breathe through it.
There’s a useful step-by-step guide to homemade masks in the New York Times, which can be made either by hand or with a sewing machine. They’ve also got a somewhat more involved one that includes a printable template for cutting out the right size fabric.
Can't sew? You may in fact just need to wrap a piece of fabric around your face. In its guidance to people who are sick, the CDC recommends wearing a face mask around other people, but notes that “you may need to improvise a face mask using a scarf or bandana.”
If you’re looking for something in between, this tutorial from an online Japanese arts and crafts educator called Japanese Creations demonstrates how to make a no-sew mask using a handkerchief (or scarf or cloth napkin or other pieces of fabric) and hair ties. If you don’t have hair ties, they suggest cutting the cuffs off of old socks or nylon tights.
You should launder your mask or face covering, if possible, in between each use. Some further guidance from Lopez’s article: “Wash your hands before and after taking off a mask — before to avoid getting anything on your face and mask, and after to get rid of anything that was on your mask. Don’t fidget with your mask while it’s on. If possible, throw away masks after using them. And if you can’t throw a mask away, make sure to thoroughly disinfect it with ultraviolet light sterilizers — not something most people have around — or, if using a cloth product, soap and water.”