Face coverings, masks and COVID-19: What you should know

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidelines on April 3, 2020, recommending that people in the US wear homemade face coverings to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

On this page

The CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering when you cannot keep 6 feet between you and others in public, like at a grocery store or pharmacy. 

Continue to follow the physical distancing guidelines:

  • stay at home as much as possible, 
  • keep 6 feet between you and others in public, 
  • don’t touch your face, 
  • cover coughs and sneezes, and 
  • wash your hands.
  • If you are sick, stay home and away from others to protect them.

Cloth face coverings are NOT a replacement for physical distancing. Cloth face-coverings are one more thing we can do to protect one another.

Multnomah County: Face coverings, masks and COVID-19: What you should know

Recomendación de los CDC sobre el uso de cubiertas de tela para la cara

How to use cloth face covering

  • You can make a homemade cloth face covering. The tighter the weave, the thicker the cloth, and the better it fits your face, the better the protection. You can also use bandanas or scarves.
  • See the CDC webpage for images and directions showing how to make a homemade cloth face covering.(link is external)
  • Homemade cloth face coverings should be washed after every use with warm water and soap.
  • Make sure you can breathe easily through them.
  • Cloth face coverings can be itchy. Don’t reach under the mask to touch your nose or mouth.
  • The CDC recommends children under 2 or anyone who can’t remove the covering themselves do not wear face coverings.

Why cloth face coverings are recommended at this time

  • Recent studies show that people with COVID-19 can have no symptoms or mild symptoms and still spread the virus. We are learning more and that’s why we have this new recommendation.
  • Face coverings decrease how many droplets we release when we speak, cough, or sneeze. Whenever we forcefully exhale, we release droplets.
  • Face coverings are intended to protect others.

Respirator v. Face Covering: What's the Difference?

Face Covering Graphic: Respirator v. Face Covering
Face Covering Graphic: Respirator v. Face Covering

Examples of Respirators and Face Coverings

Face Covering Graphic: Examples of Respirators and Face Coverings
Face Covering Graphic: Examples of Respirators and Face Coverings

Resources for DIY COVID-19 Face Coverings

Disclaimer: DIY face coverings should NOT be used as a replacement for conventional and approved Personal Protective Equipment. These coverings have not been industry tested nor have they been NIOSH approved. The publication of these resources and patterns shall not constitute or be deemed to constitute any representation by the authors, their affiliates, and the City of Portland and is intended for educational purposes only. The decision to use this device is solely your own.

What's important to understand, however, is that the device may not prevent you from acquiring coronavirus, especially if you're also engaged in risky behavior like lingering in crowded places or continuing to meet up with friends. Face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing or frequent hand washing.