The “Mask for Every Utahn” campaign is now closed. The total allotment of masks that were allocated for online distribution has been met. Unfortunately masks are no longer available for online orders.
Why Wear a Mask?
The simplest measures can have a great impact in reducing transmission of COVID-19. In addition to hand washing and maintaining physical distancing, mounting evidence suggests the importance of the widespread adoption of face coverings and masks in controlling virus spread.
This image compares the spread of respiratory particles with and without a face mask. Photo Credit: National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
What Does the Research Show?
We now know that COVID-19 is most frequently spread through droplets and aerosol particles emitted through the nose and mouth and that wearing a face covering or mask significantly decreases the chance of transmission and infection. In fact, a Brigham Young University research team “compiled and read over 115 scientific studies on COVID-19. These studies were done by independent groups from all around the U.S. and the world.” These researchers found that “there is now convincing evidence from multiple controlled experiments and field observations that wearing masks reduces the transmission of COVID-19 for healthcare workers and the public. Most of this evidence is COVID-19 specific and has emerged in the past few months.” (emphasis ours)
Accordingly, widespread public adoption of face coverings and mask wearing is a vital part of Utah’s COVID-19 response strategy.
Mask Wearing 101
There is clear scientific evidence that wearing a face covering prevents the spread of COVID-19.
The CDC recommends all people 2 years of age and older wear a cloth face covering in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when it is hard to physical distance.
You can help your community if you make your own mask. Please try to leave surgical masks and N95 masks for healthcare workers. The CDC has more tips and instructions for how to make a homemade mask at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html
While cloth face coverings are strongly encouraged to reduce the spread of COVID-19, it may not be possible in every situation or for some people to wear a face covering. In some situations, a cloth face covering could make a physical or mental condition worse or be a safety concern. Consider adaptations and alternatives whenever possible to help someone wear a face covering or to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread if it is not possible for someone to wear one.
You should wear a facemask if you are sick, showing symptoms of COVID-19, or have tested positive for COVID-19 to protect others from the risk of getting infected.
General Mask Considerations:
- Make sure you know how to use face coverings correctly. Face coverings should be worn over the nose and mouth, and fit securely around the face.
- Wash your hands before you put on a face covering.
- Try not to touch your face when wearing a face covering. If you do touch your face, you should wash your hands or use hand sanitizer right away.
- Wash or sanitize your hands before and after you help others put on or adjust a face covering.
- Do not wear face coverings if they are wet. A wet face covering may make it hard to breathe.
- Never share face coverings.
- Wash face coverings every day, or if they look dirty.
- Have extra face coverings in case a back-up is needed during the day.
Choosing the Right Mask
There are a lot of mask options out there. When choosing the right mask for your situation, consider the following recommendations from the CDC.
Wearing Your Mask Properly
Your cloth face covering (mask) fits and you’re wearing it properly if:
- Your mouth and nose are fully covered
- The covering fits snugly against your face without gaps
- You don’t have difficulty breathing while wearing it
- The mask is secure and doesn’t slip once it’s on
Salt Lake County provides sound advice on mask wearing through their “Cover Your Face Holes” campaign. The following graphic shows several incorrect ways people have been seen wearing face coverings, along with the correct way.
Mask Messages from Dr. Dunn
Types of Face Coverings
Cloth face coverings
Cloth face coverings are an important safety precaution, and are most important when you can’t physical distance. If cloth face coverings can’t be used, make sure to take other safety precautions to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread (such as physical distance, wash hands often, clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces). Remember, even when you wear a cloth face covering, you still need to physical distance.
It is not known if face shields provide any benefit to protect others from the spray of respiratory particles. The CDC does not recommend use of face shields instead of a cloth face covering, or for normal everyday activities.
- If you wear a face shield without a cloth face covering, make sure it wraps around your face and goes below your chin.
- Only wear a disposable face shield one time.
- Clean and disinfect reusable face shields after each use.
- DO NOT use a plastic face shield for a newborn or infant.
Cloth face coverings are not surgical masks or respirators. Right now, surgical masks and respirators are critical supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders.
Areas in Utah where masks are required
Masks required in K-12 schools until the Monday of the last week of the 2020-21 school year, or in the case of non-traditional or year-round school, on May 31, 2021.
Examples of times people may need adaptations and alternatives to cloth face coverings:
People who rely on lipreading to communicate may not be able to wear a cloth face covering (such as someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, or someone who cares for or interacts with a person who is hearing impaired).
- Consider using a clear face covering.
- If a clear face covering isn’t available, consider whether you can: – Use written communication – Use closed captioning, or – Decrease background noise to make it possible to communicate if you are wearing a cloth face covering that blocks your lips.
- Consider using a plexiglass barrier.
- If you choose to wear a face shield, be sure it wraps around your face and goes below your chin. It may be hard for some people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental health conditions, or other sensory sensitivities to wear a cloth face covering. They should talk to their doctor or healthcare provider for advice about wearing a cloth face covering. It may be hard for young children (preschool or early elementary aged children) to wear a cloth face covering correctly, especially for a long time.
- Make sure face coverings fit correctly. Face coverings should be the right size and fit.
- Teach children how important it is to wear a face covering, and remind them often.
- If young children have a hard time wearing a face covering for long periods of time, choose the most important times they should wear them. These are times when it is hard to stay 6 feet from others (drop off and pickup, standing in line at school).
Cloth face coverings should not be worn during activities that may cause the cloth face covering to get wet, like swimming. A wet cloth face covering may make it hard to breathe. For activities like swimming, it is very important to physical distance from others when you are in the water.