Open Menu

Health library

Back to health library

Masks still matter

Four masked adults bump elbows.

Dec. 28, 2021—Vaccines are the best way to avoid getting seriously ill from COVID-19. But there's more you can do to stay safe. Wearing a mask helps you protect yourself and others.

Why you should wear a mask

The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads by hitching a ride on the droplets we breathe out. Well-fitting disposable masks—or those with two or more fabric layers—catch the droplets before they can spread.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 2 years or older who is not vaccinated against the coronavirus wear a mask indoors. People who are fully vaccinated can safely go without a mask outdoors or indoors in places with a low COVID-19 rate.

If the areas where you live or travel have a lot of infections, play it safe by wearing a mask, washing your hands frequently and staying at least 6 feet away from others. Follow local guidelines. And use CDC's Data Tracker to learn if your area has a high transmission level.

Mask refresher

What types of masks work best? Choose masks that have two or more layers of washable and breathable fabric. They should cover your nose and mouth completely and fit snugly. Don't wear masks with a vent or valve that lets the virus escape. If you have facial hair, wear a mask fitter, brace or disposable mask under a cloth mask to close gaps.

Wash masks daily or as soon as they become dirty. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before you put on a mask or after you take off a dirty one. Store dirty masks in a plastic bag until you can wash them.

Stay safe

There are a lot of things we don't know yet about this virus. Will new variants be more contagious or severe? Will vaccines protect against them? It will take time to learn the answers.

In the meantime, get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster, and remember these three words: face, hands and space. That means wear a mask, wash your hands and stay at least 6 feet away from others.

Want to learn more about COVID-19? Visit our Coronavirus topic center.

Read more breaking news Related stories