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To mask or not to mask: That is (not) the question

Most people don’t enjoy wearing masks. They are inconvenient and put the kibosh on social interaction. They can give us the sudden urge to take a deep breath and they can make it difficult for others to hear us, to name just some of the downsides.

However, as we all know, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed its stance on mask recommendations from when COVID-19 first hit in the U.S. CDC experts first advocated not wearing masks but later changed that recommendation.

Since recommending mask usage, the CDC came up with these specific guidelines for wearing them:

  • Wear masks that have two or more layers to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
  • Masks are recommended for people 2-years-old and up.
  • They should not be worn by children younger than age 2, people who have trouble breathing, or people who cannot remove it without help.
  • People should not wear masks intended for healthcare workers, for example, N95 respirators.
  • Although it might be better than nothing, the CDC does not currently recommend using gaiters or face shields. (A gaiter is like a thick headband you wear around your neck that you can pull up and over your mouth and nose.)

How to select a mask

Although mostly common knowledge these days, here are some reminders about selecting types of masks and how to wear them.

According to the CDC, choose masks that:

  • Have two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric.
  • Completely cover your nose and mouth.
  • Fit snugly against the sides of your face and don’t have gaps.

Do not buy or use masks that:

  • Are made of fabric that makes it hard to breathe – for example, made of vinyl.
  • Have exhalation valves or vents, which allow virus particles to escape (or possibly enter).
  • Are intended for healthcare workers, including N95 respirators or surgical masks.

If you wear glasses, find a mask that fits closely over your nose or one that has a nose wire or reinforcement to help limit fogging.

Although tempting, a mask cannot do its job if it is worn around your neck, under your nose,on your chin,dangling from one ear or left in your car.