As the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) continues to study the spread and effects of COVID-19 across the United States, recent studies show a significant portion of individuals with the disease lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.
In light of this new evidence, Southern Seven Health Department recommends CDC guidelines for wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores and pharmacies. This action is not intended to protect the wearer, but it may prevent the spread of the virus from the wearer to others, especially if someone is infected but does not have symptoms.
It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing, frequent hand-washing for 20 seconds or use of hand sanitizer with 60% or more alcohol content, and other everyday preventive actions remain important to slowing the spread of the virus. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.
The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.
Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children younger than 2 years of age, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance.
All Illinoisans should wear as mask or face covering when they must leave their home or report to work for essential operations and they either cannot or it is impractical to maintain 6 feet of physical distance between themselves and others. Examples include:
- Shopping at essential businesses, like grocery stores or pharmacies,
- Picking up food from the drive thru or curbside pickup,
- While visiting your health care provider,
- Traveling on public transportation,
- Interacting with customers, clients, or coworkers at essential businesses,
- Performing essential services for state and local government agencies, such as laboratory testing, where close interactions with other people are unavoidable, and
- When feeling sick, coughing, or sneezing.
While wearing a cloth face covering it should:
- fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
- be secured with ties or ear loops
- include multiple layers of fabric
- allow for breathing without restriction
- be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape
Cloth face coverings should be machine washed daily depending on the frequency of use. Individuals should be careful not to touch their eyes, nose, and mouth when removing their face covering and wash hands immediately after removing. For more information, contact Southern Seven Health Department or visit southern7.org/coronavirus. A video on wearing facemasks can be found on the Southern Seven Health Department’s Facebook page.