Wearing a face mask or face covering is recommended to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Ohio, as well as other states and communities across the nation, has adopted ordinances making mask wearing mandatory.
Wearing a face mask regularly is new for many people, so it’s natural to have questions. We gathered some of the top questions and posed them to OhioHealth’s system medical director of Infectious Diseases, Joseph Gastaldo, MD, for an expert opinion.
If I’m wearing a face mask, do I still need to stand 6 feet away from others?
Yes. Wearing a mask, social distancing and hand-washing work synergistically to prevent COVID-19 infection. When it’s challenging to strictly maintain appropriate social distancing, wearing a mask and social distancing together are better than either alone.
Does it matter what type of face mask I choose?
Cloth face coverings that have two or more layers, are washable, breathable, fit snugly and cover your nose, mouth and chin are recommended. In addition to traditional face masks, you can use neck gaiters, as long as they also have two layers. Aim for a tight fit. When you’re wearing a surgical mask, the white part goes on the inside and the blue or yellow should go on the outside. The metal piece should be gently pinched over the bridge of your nose to fit closely to the face. A cloth mask over your surgical or disposable mask is recommended for a more protective fit. Do not choose a mask with an exhalation valve or vent, as this will allow virus particles to escape. Also, while evaluation is still ongoing, face shields alone are not recommended.
What face mask material is best?
Face masks or coverings made of a natural fiber like cotton are better than those made of synthetic materials, such as nylon, polyester and vinyl. The layers of fibers in cotton act as a natural filter, helping prevent droplets from escaping.
Is a more expensive face mask better?
No, and cloth face coverings and surgical masks are equally effective as long as they fit snug against your face. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to be protected.
Should my young child wear a mask or face covering?
Children under the age of 2 should not wear a mask. Any child wearing a mask or face covering should be able to easily remove it themselves.
Do kids need masks at the playground?
Decide what degree of risk you are willing to accept for your family. In public playgrounds, where you don’t know the other kids or families, your risk of contracting COVID-19 is higher. Instead, consider organizing regular play dates or play groups with a few families you trust.
Is it safe to reuse cloth face masks or face coverings?
You should wear a freshly laundered cloth mask or face covering every day. Cloth can accumulate soil and debris, which could lead to cloth degradation, odors and unsanitary hygiene. It’s safe to wash cloth masks with your regular laundry, but you can also hand-wash them in a sink of hot soapy water.
If I take my face mask off (say, in my car after leaving a store) how do I safely store it in between errands or stops?
You can take your mask off in your car or when you’re away from other people. When taking it off, wash or sanitize your hands before and after. Don’t put it on the floor or seat of the car. Instead, store it in a brown paper bag or paper envelope. Paper breathes and allows saliva and condensation droplets to dry, while plastic doesn’t. Remember, a mask is not sterile, but you want to keep it as sanitary as possible in between uses.
Should I wait until I’m in my car to remove my face mask or can I take it off walking to my car?
It’s more sanitary to put on and take off your mask while inside your car, where you can easily sanitize your hands before and after. Touching shopping carts, door handles, boxes or bags are all actions that could lead to mask contamination. And you could soil your mask if it’s dropped on your way to the car.
Should I wear a face mask in the drive-thru?
Yes. Some drive-thrus have overhead coverings, which allows less air to circulate. It’s also a courtesy to the person serving you.
Do I need a face mask when running or out walking?
If you’re just passing by someone else for a few seconds, you don’t necessarily need a mask. That said, if you’re out in public, you should be prepared to put on a face covering when needed. Neck gaiters are great options for runners.