Cloth Face Covers

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.

 It can be hard to stay 6 feet away from others when going to grocery stores, restaurants and other indoor places. 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 and cleaning/disinfecting surfaces, can help prevent further spread of COVID-19.

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.  

Cloth face coverings should:

  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • 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 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.

What to do if people are not wearing cloth face coverings:  Try to stay 6 feet away from people who are not wearing face coverings. You may call or talk to the business owner about your concerns if you see staff or customers who are not wearing face covers. Please do not call the police or your local health department. 

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.

See Executive Order 63 for more information on the requirement to wear face coverings while inside buildings.

Page last reviewed: May 29, 2020