CDC recommends wearing a fabric mask when it's hard to maintain social distancing

The CDC is urging Americans to wear fabric masks in places where it's hard to maintain distance from others.
Publish date:

Do you need to wear a face covering the next time you leave your home? No, but new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention urge Americans to wear a face mask when making trips to the grocery store or other locations where it's difficult to maintain social distancing. 

There isn't enough evidence to guarantee that a homemade face mask will prevent people from contracting the novel coronavirus in a public setting, but it's better than nothing. 

Kris Ehresmann, infectious disease director with the Minnesota Department of Health, said that staying home when sick, hand washing, covering your cough and social distancing are still more effective ways to avoid getting sick. 

"Individuals who are sick should be staying home and isolating themselves," said Ehresmann. "A mask is not intended to be an excuse to be out in the world. The goal of masks is to help prevent your germs from infecting others.

"Your mask protects the person that is across from you, not you. The person across from you who is wearing a mask, their mask is protecting you. A mask is a secondary protection, sort of a belt and suspenders approach."

Essentially, wearing a mask could help prevent someone from spreading the disease while they're asymptomatic. But no one should be buying or wearing surgical or N95 respirator masks, which are in high demand at healthcare facilities amid a global shortage. 

The State Emergency Operations Center reiterates Ehresmann's words about the effectiveness masks.

"Remember, masks are not a substitute for social distancing. They can protect others from you if you are ill and don't know it. It also helps prevent droplets from coughs or sneezes from spreading. If you decide to wear a mask, do not use medical grade or surgical supply masks. They are desperately needed by health care workers."

Since buying masks is nearly impossible at this point, the CDC has directions for making your own at home, which is doable by cutting a t-shirt or using a coffee filter. When completed, a mask 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

Next Up

Gary Kubiak

Vikings offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak announces retirement

Kubiak wraps up a career that has spanned nearly four decades.


Minneapolis police seeks public help finding missing woman

A 63-year-old woman has been missing since Tuesday

coronavirus testing

Don't want to talk to a contact tracer? MN debuts online option after positive test

The department says the survey will allow its staff to keep track of more cases at a faster pace

Family Dollar

Money Gal Coaching: 12 things you are wasting your money on

Kelly Blodgett started Money Gal Coaching after paying down nearly $50K in debt in 18 months.

police lights

Three teens charged in Minneapolis robberies

The incidents took place on Saturday in Minneapolis.

covid-19, coronavirus, ppe

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Thursday, January 21

It's the first time in exactly four months that Minnesota has had fewer than 100 COVID patients in intensive care.

icy roads, bad roads

Girl, 16, killed in crash with semi on icy Minnesota road

The crash happened in Dodge County around 8 a.m. Wednesday.

police lights

Road rage incident sees driver punch out man's window, punch him in face

The incident happened in Waite Park Wednesday morning.

Screen Shot 2019-10-11 at 7.01.24 AM

Minneapolis will recover $100K in costs connected to 2019 Trump rally

The Target Center operator said it'll pay the costs over three years.

Jacob Frey

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey confirms run for reelection

He has faced criticism over the city's response to George Floyd's death.


coronavirus, masks, covid-19

Lunds & Byerlys, Kowalski's will require shoppers to wear masks

The main protection people get from masking occurs when others in their communities also wear face coverings, the CDC says.

Image from iOS (19)

Mask-wearing, distancing a common sight on MOA's Black Friday

Thousands of shoppers were out and about on Black Friday despite the COVID-19 situation.

Gov. Tim Walz

Gov. Walz: Not wearing a mask is hurting your neighbor

Walz strongly encourages Minnesotans to wear a mask in public settings.

masks, coronavirus, covid-19

Osterholm: It's time for a mask mandate, but social distancing more important

The state epidemiologist backs Gov. Walz ordering a mask mandate.


MDH: Wear a mask, spread out when celebrating this weekend

"We need to be in a new normal and to continue to stay vigilant this weekend to protect ourselves and our loved ones," MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said.

deer hunting

COVID-19: Wear a mask, socially distance when deer hunting this weekend

The DNR and MDH are asking hunters to take proper precautions while hunting.

coronavirus, pandemic, masks

Map shows where Minnesotans are wearing masks, everywhere they're not

In most of Minnesota, people are not wearing face masks in public despite the fact it can help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Michael Osterholm

Osterholm: Stop mischaracterizing my comments about face masks

The leading epidemiologist has cleared the air over his previous comments on mask wearing.