Wear Face Masks Correctly

As the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic enters its second year, wearing face masks to prevent the spread of the virus continues to be an important way to keep safe and healthy. While the vaccination of thousands of Alabamians and the declining numbers of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are encouraging signs, our optimism is tempered with the arrival of new and more transmissible variants.

Alabamians need to continue the wearing of face coverings and to continue practicing other mitigation measures that work in combination to protect ourselves and others from infection. Regardless of whether masks are voluntary or mandated, they are recommended in public settings where social distancing cannot be maintained.

Masks are important because COVID-19 can be spread through respiratory droplets when infected persons speak, cough, sneeze, or sing. The respiratory droplets can travel through the air about 6 feet and infect other people. Vulnerable people, including the elderly and people of all ages with underlying health conditions, are at increased risk. Furthermore, many people with COVID-19 have no symptoms, but they can unknowingly transmit the virus to others.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently provided the following information about the value of mask wearing:

Improve How Your Mask Protects You

Correct and consistent mask use is a critical step everyone can take to prevent getting and spreading COVID-19. Masks work best when everyone wears them, but not all masks provide the same protection. When choosing a mask, look at how well it fits, how well it filters the air, and how many layers it has.

Important ways to make sure your mask works the best it can:

  • Make sure your mask fits snugly against your face. Gaps can let air with respiratory droplets leak in and out around the edges of the mask
  • Pick a mask with layers to keep your respiratory droplets in and others’ out. A mask with layers will stop more respiratory droplets getting inside your mask or escaping from your mask if you are sick.


Choose a mask with a nose wire

  • A nose wire is a metal strip along the top of the mask
  • Nose wires prevent air from leaking out of the top of the mask.
  • Bend the nose wire over your nose to fit close to your face.

Use a mask fitter or brace

  • Use a mask fitter or brace over a disposable mask or a cloth mask to prevent air from leaking around the edges of the mask.

Check that it fits snugly over your nose, mouth, and chin

  • Check for gaps by cupping your hands around the outside edges of the mask.
  • Make sure no air is flowing from the area near your eyes or from the sides of the mask.
  • If the mask has a good fit, you will feel warm air come through the front of the mask and may be able to see the mask material move in and out with each breath.

Add layers of material

Two ways to layer

  • Use a cloth mask that has multiple layers of fabric.
  • Wear one disposable mask underneath a cloth mask. The second mask should push the edges of the inner mask against your face.

Make sure you can see and breathe easily

Knot and tuck ear loops of a 3-ply mask

  • Knot the ear loops of a 3-ply face mask where they join the edge of the mask
  • Fold and tuck the unneeded material under the edges


Combine two disposable or KN95 masks

  • Disposable masks are not designed to fit tightly. Wearing more than one will not improve fit.
  • Combine a KN95 mask with any other mask.

For more information on science behind improving how your mask protects you, go to Improve the Fit and Filtration of Your Mask to Reduce the Spread of COVID-19.

Respect those around you by wearing a mask consistently when in an indoor space or if you are outdoors and cannot adhere to social distancing. Mask wearing, along with handwashing, limiting close interactions, avoiding crowds, and especially COVID-19 vaccination when eligible and available are the best tools we hold to control the virus and eventually quell the pandemic. Use them.

Scott Harris, M.D.
State Health Officer