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As offices slowly reopen or as employees start a new phase of socially distanced work, you may want to consider face masks as a way to slow the spread of COVID-19. But many employers have questions as to how to best implement mask protocols, and their benefits and drawbacks.
Because the COVID-19 virus can be spread through respiratory droplets, you can become exposed to it through sneezes, coughs, or fluid transmitted through talking. Droplets can be inhaled by people standing nearby, or transmitted by touching infected surfaces and then moved by touching your hands to your face, eyes, or mouth.
Avoiding exposure to the virus is the best way to prevent infection. Face masks or coverings can help lower transmission opportunities, especially in public areas.
Surgical/medical-grade masks include the N95 masks that are necessary for healthcare workers to protect themselves from viral transmission through droplets in the air. Non-surgical masks and face coverings are recommended for use by the general public in areas where social distancing may not be possible all of the time.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that cloth face coverings include the following specifications:
A mask is only one way to slow transmission of the virus, not 100% prevention. You should still take care to perform regular cleaning and sanitization of surfaces at your business and encourage remote work and social distancing when possible.
Here are some recommended ways to care for, wear, and remove a mask. The CDC has several notes on use and care to keep in mind:
Some states, including New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Ohio, as well as large cities including Los Angeles and the Bay Area, have enacted rules requiring wearing masks in public spaces. Recently Jet Blue passed rules requiring all passengers to wear masks to slow the transmission of the virus and some military installations, including Vandenberg Air Force Base are now requiring masks to enter a public building. It also is a recommended way to "flatten the curve" and slow the spread of the virus, even if its not required by law where you live.
While non-surgical face masks and face coverings can help to slow transmission rates of viruses like COVID-19, they cannot prevent a wearer from getting sick. Instead, masks offer protection for others who might otherwise become infected through the transmission of tiny droplets.
Yes, if they follow guidelines on making a mask that is comfortable to breathe through, and that covers their nose and mouth. There are many patterns and instructions for sewing or making a mask out of fabric and other household items.
If you have additional questions, review the CDC resources for businesses and employers on preventing spread of the Coronavirus COVID-19.