The most important way to protect others and yourself from getting COVID-19 is by staying home as much as possible, especially if you are at higher risk of serious illness. Keep at least 6 feet between yourself and others. While the use of cloth face coverings has been recommended during the COVID-19 outbreak, as of May 29, 2020, the Commonwealth of Virginia now requires that people wear cloth face coverings when spending time in indoor public settings. Face coverings are not needed for going outside to take a walk or work in your garden.
Cloth face coverings can help protect the people around you. Many people with COVID-19 have no signs or symptoms and can pass the virus to others without knowing it. When we talk, sneeze, or cough, tiny droplets that contain the virus can be carried into the air. Wearing a cloth face covering helps stop those droplets from going into the air or landing on surfaces.
You can help do your part to stop COVID-19 by wearing a cloth face covering in public places even if you don’t think you are sick or have been exposed to the virus.Remember that my face cover protects you and your face cover protects me!
Why are cloth face covers being required now? As businesses are reopening, it is important that employees are protected as they come face to face with a large number of people during work. People who have been staying at home are starting to return to more normal activities and coming into contact with more people as well. Using cloth face covers along with other measures, such as frequent hand washing, social distancing (staying six feet away from other people) and cleaning/disinfecting surfaces, can help prevent further spread of COVID-19. Wearing a cloth face covering should not take the place of these other measures.
Cloth face covers for children. Cloth face coverings should never be used on children under the age of two. Adults should use their best judgment in using cloth face covers for children between the ages of two and nine while in public places. Adults should make their best efforts to get children ages 10 and above to wear cloth face covers when in public places.
Exceptions: There are a number of situations in which people don’t have to wear a cloth face covering while using indoor public spaces. These include:
- While eating or drinking
- While exercising or using exercise equipment
- Anyone who has a breathing problem or health issue that would put their health at risk by wearing a cloth face covering.
- Anyone communicating with people who are hearing impaired for which the mouth needs to be visible.
- When temporary removal of the face covering is needed to get medical or governmental services.
Face coverings are only one part of the solution. Face coverings are only helpful when they are worn correctly and used with other recommendations. Don’t get a false sense of security from wearing a face covering. You should still follow social distancing rules (limiting contact and staying 6 feet away from other people), wash your hands often, avoid touching your face, and cover your coughs and sneezes.
What if I don’t have a cloth face covering? Simple steps for making a cloth face covering with everyday items from your home can be found here. A video showing how to make a cloth face covering can be found here. Instructions for creating a clear view face covering can be found here.
Cloth face coverings should:
- Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of your face and cover your nose and mouth.
- Be secured with ties or ear loops
- Be made of more than one layer of fabric that you can still breathe through
- Be able to be washed and machine dried without damage or change to shape
Wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol) before putting on a cloth face covering. Cover your mouth and nose with the face covering. Make sure there are no gaps between your face and the cloth face covering. Be aware that if you touch your face or adjust your face covering after you have touched other objects, you can easily spread germs to your face. If you do touch your face or cloth face covering, you should wash your hands or use hand sanitizer right away.
Be careful when taking off your cloth face covering. Remove it from behind the ears and try not to touch the front of the cloth face covering or your face. Once you remove the cloth face covering, you should throw it in the trash (if it’s disposable) right away or put it in the laundry. Be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth when removing and wash your hands right away.
Certain people should never wear a cloth face covering. Face coverings should not be put on children under the age of two or used by people who have trouble breathing, are incapacitated, or who are otherwise unable to remove the face covering without help.
Please do not buy N95 respirator masks or other medical facemasks, unless required for your job. They are in short supply and are needed by the medical staff and first responders who are caring for sick people.
For people who have intellectual or developmental disabilities, mental health conditions, such as anxiety, or other sensory sensitivities, it may feel scary or challenging to wear a cloth face covering. Talk with your healthcare provider for advice on how to wear cloth face coverings. It may also be helpful to practice wearing a cloth face covering at home for short time periods and taking breaks if you feel anxious. Practicing at home first may help you adjust to wearing a cloth face covering in public settings. Taking slow, deep breaths may also help reduce anxiety or stress from wearing a cloth face covering.
What to do if people are not wearing cloth face coverings. For your own safety, do not confront these people or start an argument. Try to stay 6 feet away from people who are not wearing face coverings. You may also call or talk to the business owner about your concerns if you see staff or customers who are not wearing face covers in indoor public settings. Please do not call the police or your local health department. To file an online complaint about Executive Order 63 (Face Coverings) and Executive Order 65 (Phase Two easing of certain restrictions) related only to cloth face coverings and capacity requirements, click here.
It is a good time to be kind! Please do not shame or yell at people who are not wearing face coverings. Others may have breathing problems or health issues you do not know about. People who cannot wear a cloth face covering are not required to show proof of their medical condition nor are they required to name their medical condition.
If you are sick, stay home and separate yourself from others in your house. Wear a cloth face covering over your nose and mouth if you must be around other people, even at home. If you need medical care, call ahead and tell them you have or may have COVID-19. For more information, see VDH’s If You’re Sick site.
For More Information:
- See Executive Order 63 for more information on the requirement to wear face coverings while inside buildings.
- Read VDH’s FAQs
- Call VDH COVID-19 hotline at 877-ASK-VDH3
Page Last Reviewed: July 29, 2020