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

Last Updated: 02/18/2021

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.

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.

How To Wear A Face Covering or Mask Correctly

  • Make sure you can breathe through it
  • Your nose and mouth should be covered
  • Make sure your mask fits snugly against your face. Gaps can let air with respiratory droplets leak in and out around the edges of the mask.
  • Pick a mask with two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric to keep your respiratory droplets in and others' out. A mask with layers will stop more respiratory droplets getting inside your mask or escaping from your mask if you are sick.
  • To add layers, wear one disposable mask underneath a cloth mask. The second mask should push the edges of the inner mask against your face.
  • Wash the face covering after use

Note: 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.

Please visit this CDC page for more information on how to properly wear, store, and clean a face mask.

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.

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