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Should I wear a mask to stop the spread of COVID-19?

Last Updated: 08/03/2020

Always wear a mask over your nose and mouth in public spaces. Even if you don't feel sick, germs can spread to others through respiratory droplets produced by breathing, talking, sneezing, and coughing.

In New Jersey, individuals must wear face coverings:

  • in outdoor public spaces when social distancing is not possible;
  • in indoor spaces open to the public, including retail, recreational, and entertainment businesses, government buildings open to the public, and on public transportation; and
  • in indoor commercial spaces closed to the public, including office buildings, when individuals are in prolonged proximity to others.

There are exceptions for children under two years old, for eating and drinking at outdoor dining establishments, when individuals need to briefly remove face coverings for religious reasons, and when wearing a mask would endanger one's health, including when engaging high intensity aerobic/anaerobic activities and when in water. The outdoor face covering requirement does not apply to child care centers, other center care facilities, and youth summer camps, which must follow their own specific guidance.

How Face Coverings Save Lives

COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet), so the use of cloth face coverings is particularly important in settings where people are close to each other or where social distancing is difficult to maintain.

Wearing a face covering or mask has been shown to dramatically decrease the release of droplets from people's mouths, which can carry infectious particles. Studies have demonstrated that masks are an important barrier to transmission of respiratory viruses.

Wearing a simple cloth face covering is not a replacement for social distancing. Keep six feet between yourself and others whenever possible and avoid crowded areas. Face coverings, social distancing, staying home when you're sick, and good hand hygiene are all vital tools in the fight against COVID-19.

Cloth Face Coverings vs Surgical Masks

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 cannot easily remove their own mask.

How To Wear A Face Covering or Mask Correctly

  • Make sure you can breathe through it
  • Your nose and mouth should be covered
  • Face coverings should not be placed on children under 2 years old or people who have trouble breathing

Maintain Healthy Habits

  • Wash the face covering after use
  • Avoid contact with sick people
  • Wash hands often with soap and water; use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water aren't available

Keep Social Distancing

  • Face coverings/masks do not replace social distancing
  • You may be sick (carrying germs) and not even know
  • Face coverings + social distancing = less community spread of disease

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.

Source: Executive Order No. 163, https://www.nj.gov/health/cd/documents/topics/NCOV/COVID_Face_Coverings.pdf; https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover.html