COVID-19 has changed the way places are operating everywhere: frequent routine cleaning, masks being worn and temperature checks upon entry of buildings. All of these precautions are being taken to not only protect you but those around you who don’t live in the same space as you or who might be a part of a vulnerable population. 

If you’re wondering how a small piece of cloth can help prevent or reduce the spread of COVID-19, you’re not alone. Lots of people have questioned the ability of a fabric mask or even a surgical mask to protect against COVID-19. But fear not, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and many other medical professionals have answered questions. 

The CDC recommends for the general public to wear masks but the WHO does state that fabric masks aren’t as effective as a medical mask. While these fabric or cloth masks might not be as effective, the WHO does also state on their website that fabric or cloth masks should be worn when social distancing of six feet is not possible, such as on public transportation or while shopping in stores.

Wearing a mask helps with source control. The virus is extremely tiny, but the droplets it can be spread through are much bigger. By wearing a mask, you reduce the likelihood of spreading these droplets. And when you and the other person are standing at least six feet away and they are also wearing a mask it reduces that risk even more. 

Besides this common misconception, there are a few other myths out there that simply aren’t true. For example, there have been many debates on whether masks restrict airflow or not. According to the CDC, they encourage people to wear a mask while working out, unless people can maintain six feet while exercising outside.

Gill Allen, MD, a pulmonologist and critical care physician at the University of Vermont Medical Center and professor at the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine, said that masks might make it slightly difficult to breathe and be uncomfortable, but they do not restrict the amount of oxygen getting into your bloodstream or cause more carbon dioxide to enter your body.

“…Masks might make it slightly difficult to breathe and be uncomfortable, but they do not restrict the amount of oxygen getting into your bloodstream or cause more carbon dioxide to enter your body.”

– DR. GILL ALLEN, pulmonologist and critical care physician

So you have to wear a mask now to work or to classes. It’s going to become a fashion statement, and what if you find normal cloth masks uncomfortable? What if you want something that matches your favorite blazer or favorite pair of leggings? Unfortunately, I’ve thought of these questions myself. Purchasing masks from stores can be expensive, I completely understand, so besides online stores where you can buy masks I included some simple ways to wear or make masks out of supplies at home. 

*****Editor’s Note: These are not based on protection level, they are options to wear in place of a surgical mask. Surgical masks are reserved for medical professionals at this time.

Looking to support a local business? There are plenty of small businesses on Etsy that are looking for support right now. If you’re lucky, some also come in multi-packs, like the ones mentioned above. They have a variety of fabrics and often make sizes from children to adults. The shop I bought mine from was called SewSassyMasks. The masks are reasonably priced for the work that goes into them, roughly $8 to $10. 

Looking for a cheaper option? No problem! Target is selling some in a two-pack for $5. They’re not the most attractive and are a little thin (my mom bought one and said it’s like wearing a pair of underwear, I guess) but they do offer protection. Walmart is also selling similar ones for similar prices if there isn’t a Target in your area. I noticed, too, Old Navy online is selling packs of masks for fairly cheap.

Feeling crafty?  Fabric can sometimes be expensive, but JoAnn Fabrics has some pretty good deals during the summer to get cheap fabric. They also are donating masks to schools with every pre-made mask you purchase and these pre-made masks are decently priced as well. Making your own mask would cost about $10 to $15 depending on how much fabric you bought and what type of material you bought for your ears. You can also make multiples out of those supplies. JoAnn Fabrics also has links showing how to make masks and their project of donating masks to schools. 

All in all, public responsibility is something you need to consider. Yes, it will be uncomfortable wearing a mask in the classroom or in the office. We need to think about our responsibility to help slow down the spread of the virus until there is a vaccine. And if you still don’t think these cloth masks will help you or others around you, take it from professionals.  



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