7 things you really need to know about wearing masks

© Novant Health 2020

Masks or homemade cloth face coverings became a hot commodity after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that we should all wear one when out in public.

Then, in late May, Gov. Ralph Northam issued an executive order requiring everyone over the age of 10 to wear masks or face coverings inside places of business.

Having the most up-to-date and accurate knowledge is especially important now that masks are required for the foreseeable future. While we have all become experts at hand-washing and social distancing, there’s still confusion about how and when to wear masks.

We asked Michelle Strider, chief quality officer at Novant Health UVA Health System, to help set the record straight.


Q: Do I really need to wear a mask when out in public?

Yes. Wearing a mask not only helps to protect yourself from COVID-19, but it also helps to protect others. Think of wearing a mask as a selfless act, one in which we are each taking responsibility and doing our part to help protect the most vulnerable members of our community.  


Q: Is there a right way to wear my mask?

The mask should fit snugly and cover your nose, mouth and chin. You should also never touch the front of your mask as it might be contaminated. Instead, you should only touch the ear loops or ties on the back when putting the mask on or taking it off.

Always have the same side of the mask facing outward, keeping the “clean” side in. You don't want to go into a public place wearing a mask, take it off later, and then put it back on with the front now pressing on your face. You should also wash your hands before and after use.


Q: How do I get my mask to stop fogging up my glasses?

If you wear a surgical-style mask with elastic loops and find your glasses fogging, cross the ear loops once and then slide around your ear. It may reduce fogging and make breathing a little easier.  


Q: Is it OK to pull my mask down around my chin and then pull it back up when I need it?

This is another common misconception that we have noticed. Under no circumstance should you pull your mask down around your chin or take it off and put it back on. This can increase your risk of infection.


Q: Do I need to wear a mask when driving in my car or walking around the neighborhood?

In your car, no. But you should wear a mask anytime you are in a public place and social distancing becomes a challenge.


Q: If I visit family, do I need to wear a mask?

When you’re around immediate household family members, you don’t need to wear a mask. If a visit with extended family can’t be postponed or conducted virtually, then I would definitely advise wearing a mask. You should also avoid kissing, hugging or handshakes.


Q: Should I clean or change my mask?

Masks should be routinely changed or washed depending on the frequency of use. Cloth masks can be safely cleaned in a washing machine.


For updates on the 2019 novel coronavirus, visit the CDC website (cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov). For the most up-to-date information from Culpeper Medical Center and Novant Health UVA Health System, visit NovantHealthUVA.org/coronavirus.

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