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The CDC is Asking Community Members to Cover Their Faces…But Not with a Medical-Grade Mask

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Laura Zabriskie

April 8, 2020
*This is a rapidly changing situation. This article was written on April 8, 2020. For the most up-to-date information, visit the CDC website at*

On April 3, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a recommendation that encourages the public to wear cloth face coverings while out in the community, especially in places such as grocery stores where it may be hard to maintain social distancing. While a face covering sounds like it is the same thing as a mask, there is a critical difference – one can be used in a medical setting and the other cannot.

We have learned that it’s possible to spread COVID-19 before showing symptoms (pre-symptomatic) and possibly without showing symptoms at all (asymptomatic). Covering your face can prevent you from spreading the virus if you don’t know you have it. COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets, which are relatively heavy and fall to the ground after travelling about six feet. This is why social distancing, along with good hand hygiene, is an effective way to prevent infection. Wearing face coverings is an additional precaution to stop infected droplets from getting into the environment, but it should not be treated as a substitute for other precautions. When used together, these measures are enough to protect the public. Click here to learn how to properly use a face covering.

Healthcare workers need extra protection. They are in much closer contact with infected persons and sometimes have to perform procedures that break up the droplets into smaller pieces that linger in the air. This is called aerosolization and it significantly increases their risk of becoming infected. Healthcare employees rely on medical-grade personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect them as they work with patients.

Hospitals across the country are facing critical shortages of PPE and need your help. “I urge everyone in the general public not to use medical-grade facemasks for personal use. We really need to reserve these for medical professionals who are providing care to patients,” says Molly Hyde, MHS, CIC, Infection Control Practitioner at GBMC.

In order to protect yourself and others, use a cloth face covering instead of a medical-grade mask. According to the CDC, cloth face coverings should:
  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • Be secured with ties or ear loops
  • Include multiple layers of fabric
  • Allow for breathing without restriction
  • Be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape

The CDC also states that "cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance."

Cloth face coverings require few materials and can easily be made at home. Click here (sew) and here (no sew) for tutorials on how to create them with supplies you probably already have. If you have N95 or procedure masks (also called surgical or ear-loop masks), please donate them to the healthcare workers who are on the frontlines of this pandemic – you could save a life.

GBMC is accepting supplies and monetary donations to provide much needed services and support to our employees. To learn how you can contribute, go to or call 443-849-6219.

*Click here for more information about the coronavirus (COVID-19)*
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