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Should I purchase or wear a mask for protection from COVID-19?

Last Updated: 04/11/2020

The first and most important measure you should take protect yourself and others from COVID-19 remains to stay at home and to follow social distancing guidelines.

If you must leave your home:

The CDC has recommended the use of cloth face coverings in community settings to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. There is a growing body of evidence that asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic individuals can spread the virus.

In New Jersey, individuals must use a face covering when shopping at essential retail businesses, entering a restaurant or bar to pick up takeout orders, and when traveling on trains, buses, light rail, or paratransit vehicles.

The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks. They are not medical grade N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders who are caring for the sick. If you have these products in your home, we ask that you donate them to the COVID-19 effort through this website.

Cloth face coverings can be made at home from common materials like scarves or bandanas. A simple cloth face covering should cover the nose and mouth.

Cloth face coverings are not recommended for children under 2 years, people who are incapacitated, people who have difficulty breathing, or any other person who can not easily remove their own mask.

Wearing a simple cloth face covering is not a replacement for social distancing and does not exempt anyone from social distancing requirements.

How to wear a face mask
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

Should cloth face coverings be washed or otherwise cleaned regularly? How regularly?
Yes. They should be routinely washed depending on the frequency of use.

How does one safely sterilize/clean a cloth face covering?
A washing machine should suffice in properly washing a face covering.

How does one safely remove a used cloth face covering?
Individuals should be careful not to touch their eyes, nose, and mouth when removing their face covering and wash hands immediately after removing.

Please visit this CDC page for more information on how to appropriately wear a face mask, how to use homemade cloth coverings, and for instructions on making a face mask at home.