As we learn more about how coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) spreads, we’re learning how to better protect each other from it. One thing many have been wondering is do I need to wear a mask? Originally, the recommendation was to only wear a mask if you’re feeling sick or caring for someone who’s sick, but Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends almost everyone wear cloth face coverings, or masks, in public.
Why the recommendation changed
For one, we now know you’re contagious with coronavirus before symptoms appear, or when you’re pre-symptomatic. You can also be asymptomatic – which means you may never show symptoms – and unknowingly give the virus to those around you. And you don’t necessarily need to be coughing or sneezing to spread germs; coronavirus can be spread from particles that leave your mouth just by talking.
We also know that, even as you’re doing your best to practice social distancing and only leaving home when you have to, it can be easier said than done – especially in grocery stores and pharmacies, which are still packed with people. On top of staying at least 6 feet away from others, wearing a cloth mask can help prevent germs from spreading if you have the virus and don’t know it.
Did you know? Seeing everyone wearing masks for the first time can be alarming, but it might be reassuring to know this isn’t the first time it’s happened in U.S. history. During the 1918 flu pandemic, places like San Francisco issued similar recommendations for people to wear masks in public. Like social distancing, it’s another easy way to protect each other and work together to get through this.
In addition to lessening the spread of the virus in your community, covering your face can protect you, too – making it a good idea for almost everyone to wear a cloth mask right now. But the CDC says they shouldn’t be placed on children under 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing or might not be able to remove the mask without help.
No sewing machine, no problem
You don’t need the masks you see healthcare professionals wearing. In fact, the CDC reminds us all that those should be reserved for medical providers and first responders. The good news is you can make a CDC-approved cloth mask with things you have at home right now.
The CDC has step-by-step advice on how to make masks – and you can sew them, but you don’t have to. The CDC has easy tips for making no-sew cloth masks. All you need is cloth like a bandana, scissors, a coffee filter, and rubber bands or hair ties. You can also use a t-shirt you don’t mind cutting up, but whatever you use, make sure it’s thick enough: A higher thread count can better block germ particles.
Once your mask is made, check that you’re wearing it the right way. This means it’s securely over your nose and mouth, with ties or loops around your ears. You’ll also need multiple layers of fabric that can be easily cleaned, and, of course, you’ve got to be able to breathe.
When wearing the mask, try not to touch it. When you have to touch it – to remove it, for example – wash your hands with soap and water after. And make sure you’re washing the mask after a few wears so it stays clean.
Read the CDC’s full recommendation, plus see their tips for making cloth masks at home.
How to donate sewn masks
You’ve probably heard that healthcare organizations across the nation are seeking masks. If you love sewing, making masks can be a great way to give back. We’re providing cloth masks to our healthcare workers who don’t directly care for patients – people like pharmacists, maintenance workers, and supply delivery staff. We’re also asking anyone who comes into our facility wear a mask, and would like to have enough cloth masks to be able to provide our adult and pediatric patients a mask when they walk in the door. This will help us preserve our surgical masks for our doctors, nurses and other teammates caring for patients.
Many community groups have stepped up to sew masks for these patients. If you know how to sew and are looking for ways to give back from home, so can you.
To learn more about how to sew and donate fabric masks, please email CommunityBenefit@AtriumHealth.org.