When And How To Use Masks

This far into the pandemic most people across the globe have their mask wearing routine down, especially in Asia where masks have been more common place for years. However since the WHO just updated their guidelines on when and how to use masks, we thought this little refresher would help us all practice smart masking.

The latest update provides advice on the use of masks in communities, during home care, and in health care settings in areas that have reported cases of COVID-19. It is intended for individuals in the community, public health and infection prevention and control (IPC) professionals, health care managers, health care workers (HCWs), and community health workers. This updated version includes a section on Advice to decision makers on the use of masks for healthy people in community settings. 

Key messages

  • Masks should be used as part of comprehensive package of measures that help to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Hand hygiene before putting on and after removing the mask, as well as appropriate use, storage and cleaning or disposal of are essential to ensure masks are effective.
  • WHO has updated its guidance on the use of masks with new scientific evidence and practical advice to decision makers. More research is needed.
  • The main changes, in particular in areas of community or cluster transmission, is more wide use of masks in health care facilities and specifics on using non-medical masks for the general public.
  • In areas of known or suspected community or cluster COVID-19 transmission, WHO advises people to wear a mask, in indoor or in outdoor settings, where physical distancing of at least 1 meter cannot be maintained. When indoors with others, people should wear a mask unless ventilation has been assessed to be adequate. At home, people should wear a mask when receiving visitors if they cannot maintain distance or assess that ventilation is good.
  • There is also the recommendation not to wear masks during vigorous physical activity, and not to use masks with valves.
  • WHO has provided more detailed guidance on what types of fabrics to use in making fabric masks.

This is the fourth update of WHO mask guidance. The most recent previous one was Advice on the use of mask for children in the context of COVID-19 published on 21 August.

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