Masks help slow COVID-19 spread. Here's how to use them correctly.

By Regence
June 03, 2020
face mask protection

Regence's Dr. Cheryl Pegus explains the importance of mask wearing

Businesses, restaurants, parks and more are beginning to ease their restrictions and allow people to resume normal activities while being mindful of measures to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Among the measures: masks.

Many people have made masks at home, sharing them with essential workers, friends and neighbors. But what makes a good mask?

“Any mask you have is better than no mask,” says Dr. Cheryl Pegus, President of Health Care Solutions and Regence Chief Medical Officer. “The most important thing about a mask is to wear one.”

The key is comfort. Because some masks aren’t comfortable, people will pull them down below their nose, or yank them down around their neck and back up. A mask needs to be breathable and something you will use, Pegus said, and should cover your nose and mouth with a nice seal.

“If you are using a homemade mask and taking it off after three minutes because it’s not comfortable, find another solution,” she said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers some guidance for wearing cloth face coverings as a step to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The gold standard for face coverings is the N95 mask, which is used by health care providers as they care for patients who are presumptive or positive.

Surgical-type masks are used in many medical settings as well, as are face shields to decrease infection in high-risk environments. 

The CDC recommends wearing face coverings in public. Recent analysis also shows that masks and social distancing work in combatting the spread of the virus, among other actions one can take. It is important to remember that this is to prevent people with no symptoms from infecting others, because studies have shown that 25% to 40% of those who are positive for COVID-19 may have no symptoms.

“Masks are a significant part of us reopening this country,” Pegus said, “so I want to stress how important it is.”

If you’re out and about, make sure you’re wearing a mask, something you will keep on while getting gas, getting groceries or even just talking. And talking is the reason to wear one, Pegus said. People are not coughing and sneezing with the coronavirus, but they could be transmitting virus droplets through their saliva while speaking to someone.

“You are wearing a mask to protect those around you,” Pegus said, “and I hope others are doing that for you.”