As of Friday, April 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all Americans consider wearing “cloth masks” when out in public, in an effort to curtail the ballooning number of coronavirus cases in the United States. President Trump reiterated this recommendation in a Friday press conference. Several politicians have encouraged it as well, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
On Thursday, April 2, de Blasio said, “We’re advising New Yorkers to wear a face covering when you go outside and will be near other people. Let’s be clear, this is a face covering. It could be a scarf, it could be a bandana, something you create yourself.”
The CDC backs this new recommendation, offering the following advice:
…the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
Here’s how to make a cloth mask out of a bandana:
How to Make a COVID-19 Cloth Mask Out of a Bandana
The above video by HeadCovers, a company originally founded to provide head coverage for cancer survivors, shows you how to make a mask out of a bandana without a sewing machine. The key, as shown in the video above, is to make sure your bandana is large enough that it will safely cover your mouth and nose, after being folded properly.
HeadCovers offers large bandanas as shown in the video above, but any 22-24″ bandana will do. In addition to a bandana, the only other item you need to create a cloth mask is a few hair ties.
You can also follow these instructions by the blog Japanese Creations about another design for a no-sew cloth mask, too. This video includes a handkerchief, but could easily be substituted for a bandana of the right size:
To be clear, these masks are not an equal substitute for surgical grade masks or N95 respirators, and are not intended to be compared to them. Rather, the only people who are recommended by the CDC to use surgical masks or N95 respirators are people who live in close proximity to someone who is infected by COVID-19, or medical workers and other professionals who are working on the front lines of the pandemic.
So no, these cloth masks will not entirely prevent any airborne particles or respiratory droplets from reaching your mouth or nostrils, but it could keep you safer in public places, the CDC says, and could keep other people safe from your own germs. Just make sure you wash your cloth mask after every use, and that you make sure to fasten it as tightly as is comfortable against your face.
As always, feel free to check in with the CDC’s official recommendations from day to day, as they may change in the weeks to come.