CDC recommends that people wear masks in public settings, at events and gatherings, and anywhere they will be around other people. Masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.

A grid of mask types.

CDC recognizes there are specific instances when wearing a mask may not be feasible and some categories of people who may not be able to wear a mask or wear a mask safely. In these instances, consider adaptations and alternatives.

Wearing face coverings is vital in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Those who are staying home and have no close contacts that are infected with COVID-19 don’t need a mask while at home. Nevertheless, we must be intentional about avoiding crowds and social distancing to control the spread of COVID-19.

Mask types

Cloth

A black, fabric, ear loop face mask

The IDPH and CDC recommends that members of the public use simple cloth face coverings when in a public setting to slow the spread of the virus, since this will help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.

Surgical

A light blue, pleated surgical face mask

A surgical mask is a loose-fitting, disposable device that creates a physical barrier between the mouth and nose of the wearer and potential contaminants in the immediate environment. The edges of the mask are not designed to form a seal around the nose and mouth, but do help contain the spread of virus when worn by infected individuals.

N95 Respirator

An white N95 respirator mask with yellow straps

An N95 respirator is a respiratory protective device designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles. Surgical N95 respirators are commonly used in healthcare settings often referred to as N95s.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend that the general public wear N95 respirators to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). N95s are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.

How to put on a surgical face mask

  1. Clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer before touching the mask.
  2. Remove a mask from the box and make sure there are no obvious tears or holes in either side of the mask.
  3. Determine which side of the mask is the top. The side of the mask that has a stiff bendable edge is the top and is meant to mold to the shape of your nose.
  4. Determine which side of the mask is the front. The colored side of the mask is usually the front and should face away from you, while the white side touches your face.

Follow the instructions below for various types of cloth masks

  • Face mask with ear loops: Hold the mask by the ear loops. Place a loop around each ear.
  • Face mask with ties: Bring the mask to your nose level and place the ties over the crown of your head and secure with a bow.
  • If using a face mask with ties: Then take the bottom ties, one in each hand, and secure with a bow at the nape of your neck. Pull the bottom of the mask over your mouth and chin.
  • Face mask with bands: Hold the mask in your hand with the nosepiece or top of the mask at fingertips, allowing the headbands to hang freely below hands. Bring the mask to your nose level and pull the top strap over your head so that it rests over the crown of your head. Pull the bottom strap over your head so that it rests at the nape of your neck. Mold or pinch the stiff edge to the shape of your nose.

CDC Guidance