*Infants and children under 2 years of age should not wear a mask. Children ages 2 to 8 should wear a mask only when under with adult supervision.
Wearing masks help slow the spread of COVID-19, but also needs to be combined with other protective measures.
When you wear a mask, you protect others as well as you. Masks work best when everyone wears one.
COVID-19 virus spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets over short distances. This is known as droplet transmission. Respiratory droplets are released into the air when people breathe, speak, sing, cough, shout, or sneeze. It is thought that most infections are spread through large respiratory droplets that travel less than 6 feet before falling out of the air. These droplets can infect other people if they are breathed in or land in the mouths or noses of others who are nearby. People who are close to a person with COVID-19 are at greatest risk of infection.
Under certain conditions, the virus may be spread through smaller respiratory droplets or particles that can remain suspended in the air and travel a longer distance to infect people who are further away or who entered an enclosed space after the infected person left. This is known as airborne transmission. Conditions that make airborne transmission more likely include being in an enclosed space or a space with poor ventilation, especially when people are singing, shouting, or breathing heavily (like with exercise). These conditions can allow for the build-up of smaller droplets or particles in the space that can remain in the air over longer distances (usually more than 6 feet) and for a longer time (minutes to hours). See How COVID-19 Spreads.
Everyone needs to wear a mask even when they feel well. This is because people with COVID-19 can spread the virus to others before they get symptoms or without ever getting symptoms.
For masks to work best, everyone should be wearing them:
Studies have shown that in communities where people wear masks there is less transmission of COVID-19. See CDC Scientific Brief: Community Use of Cloth Masks to control the Spread of SARS-CoV-2 for more information.
You DO need to wear a mask:*
You DON’T need to wear a mask:
There are many types of masks you can use to protect against getting and spreading COVID-19. Choose a mask:
Recommended types of masks for the general public
Also called medical procedure or surgical masks.
These are a type of disposable respirator that are commonly made and used in China. They are similar to N95 masks that are used by healthcare professionals in the United States.
Do not use masks that:
Bandanas and scarves are not recommended (unless you wear a mask underneath).
See CDC Types of Masks for more information.
TIPS! It is recommended to have more than one mask readily available so that a dirty face covering can be easily replaced with a clean one. When you are out, carry a spare mask and hand sanitizer. If your mask gets damp or wet, replace it with a clean dry one.
To get the best protection from your mask, make sure that it fits well. It is important that whichever type of mask you use:
Ways to make your cloth or disposable mask fit better
Tips to check that your mask fits
Wearing two masks or “double masking”
“Double masking” is when a cloth mask worn on top of a disposable mask. This makes the disposable mask fit better and adds extra layer(s) of protection.
How to put on a mask
How to take off a mask
Removing your mask temporarily (e.g., to eat or drink)
Disposable masks and KN95 masks
Throw the mask away once it gets wet or visibly dirty or after a day of wearing it (whichever comes soonest).
The following people should not wear a mask:
Note: Underlying medical conditions
Most people with underlying medical conditions, including those with asthma can and should wear a mask, unless instructed not to by their doctor. Wearing a mask does not reduce a person’s oxygen supply or cause a build-up of carbon dioxide. If you or someone you care for has an underlying health condition and you have concerns about wearing a mask, talk to your doctor. They will discuss the benefits and potential risks with you.
Clear masks or cloth masks with a clear plastic panel are an alternative type of mask for people who interact with:
A face shield is a transparent barrier that covers the face and is typically open at the sides and bottom. Face shields are often worn by healthcare workers in addition to medical masks, to protect their eyes from splashes and sprays of body fluids. In LA County, you may see face shields worn with a mask to protect some non-healthcare workers who may come into close contact with customers.
A face shield alone cannot be used in place of a mask.
Although they may not work as well as masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a face shield with a drape attached on the bottom edge that is either form fitting under the chin or tucked into a shirt or collar can be used by people who cannot wear a mask due to a disability or medical condition. For more information on face shields plus drape including a photograph see the CDPH Face Shield Frequently Asked Questions.
Do NOT put a plastic face shield on newborns or infants.
If you are in public and encounter someone not wearing a mask or wearing it incorrectly, consider the tips below:
From the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):