In a video tutorial, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams says it can be made from common household items.


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With the world debates over the appropriate use N95 masks and medical masks amid the coronavirus pandemic, the question remains—what if you are left without either?

Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officially released an advisory that anyone out in public should wear a cloth face covering. This is in light of growing evidence that the virus spreads between people in close proximity—either by speaking, coughing, or sneezing—and even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. This is especially crucial in situations where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (such as a trip to the grocery store or pharmacy) in crowded public areas.

According to their guidelines, it should fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face, include multiple layers of fabric that allow for unrestricted breathing, and be secured with loop ties. If reusing, the covering's fabric should be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage to its shape. (It's worth noting that a face covering is not recommended for young children under the age of two years old.)

This is, of course, not a substitute for N95 masks—as was previously explained by Alok Patel, M.D., a pediatrician in New York City affiliated with New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia and Cornell and UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland. "When it comes to a mask's effectiveness, there really are two factors: the ability to filter out airborne particles and the actual fit," he explained. "The N95 mask is the best we have and duplicating it is no easy task. I've seen online tutorials using various types of fabrics and while it is possible the handmade masks could block out larger droplets, they are, understandably, not as effective as the N95s."

You can still use items around the house such as a scarf, bandana, tea towel, or T-shirt. You will need a pair of rubber bands, but cotton ribbon tied into ear loops can also work here. In the above video, the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams demonstrates, step by step, how to fold cloth into a face mask. (And if you have a sewing machine, you can sew fabric into a medical mask for personal use.)

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