Wearing a face covering has become a fact of life these days. Face coverings are an essential part of slowing and prevent the spread of COVID-19, but only when properly used.
In this blog, we're going to explain the specifics of how to effectively wear a face covering.
What's a face covering?
Many people use the term face mask to refer to face coverings. They are a well-secured cloth covering or disposable mask that covers your nose and mouth. Some common face coverings you may see are cotton masks, surgical masks, and N95 masks. When selecting a face covering, consider the following:
- Do not use a face covering with an exhalation valve as it allows unfiltered exhaled air to escape.
- Use a face covering with two or more layers of material to better prevent unfiltered air from passing through.
- Respiratory particles can exit from both your nose and mouth. Make sure the face covering fits snugly against the sides of your face and fully covers both your nose and mouth, without slipping.
- Don't use N95 respirators, as they remain in short supply. It is essential that we save N95 respirators for health care workers.
Who needs to wear a face covering?
Everyone! Yes, every single person needs to wear a face covering. New York State (NYS) law requires everyone over age 2 who can medically tolerate a face covering to wear one when in public if unable to maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others.
Examples include walking on a busy street, shopping in stores, seeing your doctor, dining at a restaurant (when not eating or drinking), going to your place of worship or attending a gathering. You must wear a face covering at all times when riding public transportation, such as the subway, ferry, bus, taxis and car services.
It is strongly recommend you wear a face covering as much as possible when in a shared indoor space outside your home, such as places of worship and offices, even if you can maintain 6 feet of distance from others. People who are sick should wear a face covering while at home, especially if they cannot maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others, and at all times whenever they leave home.
What if I live in a shared home or housing facility?
It can be a challenge to wear a mask constantly, especially when you're at home. However, if you have many room mates or live in a shared housing facility, do your best to wear a face covering when in any shared kitchens, bathrooms or other common spaces.
Do I need to wear a face covering when I'm exercising?
If you are in a gym, you must wear a face covering at all times, per NYS law. Per NYS
requirements, bandanas, buffs and gaiters are not acceptable face coverings for use in gyms and fitness centers.
However, If you are exercising outside, you do not need to wear a face covering as long as you maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others.
Do I need to wear a face covering at work?
If you are working remotely in your own home, there is no need to wear a face mask. You must wear a face covering at work, unless you are certain you can maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others (including co-workers, customers, clients and visitors).
Employers must provide face coverings to employees for free. Your employer may have additional requirements as to when a face covering, or other protection, is needed. Even if 6 feet of distance can be maintained, wearing a face covering as much as possible when working indoors and around other people is strongly recommended. If you cannot medically tolerate a face covering, discuss with your employer whether a reasonable accommodation is possible.
What precautions should I take with my face covering?
Using face coverings incorrectly can spread germs. For this reason, it is important to properly wear, store and dispose of face coverings by doing the following:
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer every time you put on and take off your face covering. If you are unable to clean your hands, be very careful not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Do not put face coverings where others can touch them or where germs trapped in your face covering can touch other surfaces, such as countertops or your kitchen table.
- Do not throw your face covering loose in a bag or backpack. Keep a small bag with you to store your face covering if you will be taking it off when outside your home.
I had COVID-19 and am better now. Do I still need to wear a face covering?
Yes! The NYS requirement for wearing a face covering applies even if you had COVID-19.
Can I wear a face shield instead of a face covering?
A face shield is not an acceptable substitute for a face covering at this time. More research is needed regarding the effectiveness of face shields in stopping respiratory droplets from spreading. Face shields may be considered for use by someone who cannot medically tolerate a face covering or in addition to wearing a face covering. It should not substitute a face covering.
How often do I need to wash my face covering?
We recommend washing cloth face coverings once a day or after about eight hours of use. You can wash cloth face coverings by hand or machine using detergent and hot water. The face covering should be fully dry before using.
How long can I use a disposable face covering?
There is no set length of time. Some may be able to use the same disposable face covering for up to five days. You should discard disposable face coverings if they become damaged, dirty or wet. Be sure to throw it away in the trash.
This information has been provided by NYC Health. For more information about face coverings and COVID-19, visit the NYC Health website.