COVID moves through the air in tiny bits of moisture called aerosols from a contagious person.

  • Masks help filter out the aerosols from the air you breathe. That helps keep you from getting infected.

  • Masks also help filter out the aerosols you breathe, cough, or sneeze out. That helps keep you from accidentally infecting someone else.

  • They can be worn by everyone 2 years old or older.

In the US, each public transportation system has its own rules about masks. Hubs like airports and train stations have their own requirements, too, as do air, rail, bus, and cruise carriers. Businesses, public buildings, and other venues may also have masking rules you'll need to follow, as will local health agencies.

Otherwise, if you’re up to date on vaccines, you only need to wear a mask if there’s a lot of COVID in your area or if your immune system doesn't work well. If that’s the case:

  • Wear a mask when you’re indoors with people you don’t live with.

  • Outdoors, consider masking if you’re in a crowd or if you’ll be near people who aren’t vaccinated.

And remember, if you feel more comfortable wearing a mask in public places, you can always choose to wear one.

  • It should completely cover your nose, mouth, and chin.

  • It should fit the sides of your face snugly, without gaps.

  • It should have a wire or clip to secure it on the bridge of your nose.

When selecting a mask for a child, make sure:

  • It is designed to fit a child’s face completely and snugly.

  • It is comfortable for as long as possible.

There are three basic types of mask:

  • Cloth masks provide a basic level of protection. They are made from a variety of fabrics and are widely available. A good cloth mask has two or more layers of breathable, washable fabric that isn’t see-through. You can wear a cloth mask on top of a disposable mask for added protection.

  • Disposable masks — also called surgical or procedure masks — provide a higher level of protection. A good disposable mask has multiple layers of material and a nose clip. They fit best when worn knotted and tucked.

  • Standardized masks — also called respirators or filtering masks — provide the best protection. They have multiple layers of material and a nose clip. They are often referred to by the safety standard they meet: KN95, KN94, or N95.

  • Cloth masks can be regularly washed with your other laundry.

  • Disposable masks should be thrown away after a single use.

Standardized masks can be reused based on exposure:

  • Discard them daily if you work in a high-risk setting.

  • Reuse them if you only wear them occasionally and/or are generally not in close contact with people.

  • You can wear a standardized mask again once you’ve stored it in a paper bag for a few days.

  • Discard your mask when it no longer seals well or if it's dirty or damaged.

After removing it by carefully, touching only the straps:

  • Store it in a safe, clean space where you won’t touch it.

  • A bag or container protects both you and the mask.

  • Never store disposable masks after they’ve been used.

  • For added protection you can combine a cloth and disposable mask.

  • Put the disposable mask on first and then the cloth mask on top.

  • Don’t wear two disposable masks together — it doesn’t make you safer.

  • Don’t wear any other mask with a standardized mask.