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COVID-19 and Face Masks: What You Need to Know

Should I wear a face mask when I go out in public during the COVID-19 pandemic?

A non-medical face mask or covering may not protect the person wearing it, but it may help to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Since COVID-19 can be spread by respiratory droplets, face masks can protect the people around you by preventing germs from spreading. Face masks should be worn regardless of whether or not you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of COVID-19, since COVID-19 can be spread by people without symptoms.

It is recommended to wear non-medical face masks or facial coverings in public, especially if it is difficult to maintain a 2-metre distance from others. In particular, it is best to wear a mask in crowded public settings such as:

  • stores
  • shopping areas
  • public transportation

However, wearing a mask alone will not protect you from COVID-19. Masks are used alongside good hand washing practices and maintaining a physical distance of 2-metres from others to protect yourself and those around you from getting COVID-19.

What type of face mask should I use?

Cloth face masks or coverings should:

  • allow for easy breathing
  • be large enough to completely cover the nose and mouth without gaping
  • be changed as soon as possible if damp or dirty
  • comfortably sit on the face
  • have at least 2 layers of tightly woven fabric (such as cotton or linen)
  • fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops
  • maintain its shape after washing and drying

Some masks include a pocket for a filter, such as a paper towel or disposable coffee filter, that can be used for increased benefits.

The Public Health Agency of Canada also has instructions on their website on how to make your own face masks.

What type of face masks should I not use?

Do not use non-medical masks or face coverings that:

  • are shared with others
  • impair your vision or ability to do tasks
  • are made of plastic, other non-breathable materials, or materials that fall apart easily (like tissue)
  • are secured with tape

Medical masks, such as surgical masks, medical procedure face masks, and respirators (like N95 masks) should be reserved for health care workers and those who provide direct care to COVID-19 patients.

Who should not wear a face mask?

Face masks should not be used by:

  • children under the age of 2 years
  • anyone unable to remove them without assistance
  • anyone who has trouble breathing

How do I use a mask properly?

When wearing a face mask or facial covering, follow these steps:

  • Ensure the face mask or covering is clean and dry.
  • Wash your hands with soap or use a hand sanitizer before touching the mask.
  • Ensure your hair is away from your face.
  • Place the mask to cover your nose and mouth and secure it to your head with the ties or ear loops.
  • Wash your hands with soap or use a hand sanitizer after touching the mask.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth while wearing the mask.
  • To remove your mask, don’t touch the front, only the ear loops.
  • Wash your hands with soap or use a hand sanitizer.

In general, masks should be changed as soon as they become damp or soiled. Avoid storing your used mask in your pocket, since it is contaminated with germs. Used masks should be placed directly into the laundry and cleaned after each use, by washing on the hot cycle.

What else can I do to stay safe during an outbreak?

  • Clean your hands frequently with soap and warm water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face.
  • Avoid people who are sick.
  • If you are sick, stay home to avoid infecting others.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your arm if you cough or sneeze.
  • Maintain a 2-metre distance from others.
  • Avoid touching your face, mouth, nose or eyes.
  • Follow public health recommendations for social distancing.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source:

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