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How To Correctly Wear & Remove A Face Mask Amid COVID-19

Abby Moore
Editorial Operations Manager By Abby Moore
Editorial Operations Manager
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
a woman on the street returning from shopping holding fresh fruit and vegetables bag with a mask face

At least four states in the U.S., including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, have now ordered residents to wear face masks when in public. While it's not enforced in the remaining 46 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highly recommends wearing face coverings in public. Wearing them is one thing, but how do you know if you're wearing them correctly?

To get some answers, mindbodygreen sought out the appropriate times to wear face masks and how to put them on and remove them safely. The recommendations from public health organizations are crucial right now to help ensure our face masks are actually effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19.

When to wear a mask. 

If you live with and are caring for someone who's sick, the CDC says to "have them wear a cloth face covering (that covers their nose and mouth) when they are around people, including you."

If you and all of your housemates are healthy, though, masks typically don't need to be worn at home. 

Face masks are not a substitute for social distancing. In fact, the "CDC still recommends that you stay at least 6 feet away from other people." But if you're visiting a crowded setting, like a grocery store, pharmacy, or busy running trail, make sure your mask is on and securely fastened. 

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How to put on a mask. 

Whether you buy a mask or make one at home, it's important to put it on safely and correctly to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. These are the steps to properly use a mask, according to the World Health Organization (WHO):

  1. Clean hands with soap and water. 
  2. Determine which side is the front (usually the colored side is the front and should face out) and which side is the top (usually the bendable edge goes over your nose).
  3. Cover your mouth and nose with the mask, making sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask. 
  4. Avoid touching your face while wearing it, and wash your hands immediately if you do. 

The San Francisco Department of Public Health adds: For face masks with ear loops, hold the mask by the ear loops and place one loop around each ear. For typical surgical masks with ties, bring the mask to your nose level, place the ties over the crown of your head, and secure it with a bow. 

How to remove a mask. 

As soon as masks become visibly soiled or damp, you should remove them. If you have a single-use mask, you need to throw it away. If you have a cloth version, though, you can clean your mask in the laundry—generally, after each use. 

When removing it, the CDC says "individuals should be careful not to touch their eyes, nose, and mouth," and be sure to wash your hands immediately after you touch the mask.

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