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Posted on May 20th, 2020 by Bettina Carlson, under Social Distancing, Take Charge, Tips & Resources

As of May 1st, the modified stay-at-home order is now in effect. Face coverings are now required to be worn in public spaces where social distancing cannot be maintained.

There is some confusion around masks, which ones are acceptable, how to wear them, potential breathing challenges, etc. Hence we take the opportunity to share some information to empower you to make safe choices. 

The basic rules around Face Coverings are:

  • For all individuals over the age of two
  • In indoor public spaces where social distancing cannot be maintained

Types of Face-Coverings

Face coverings can be items such as

  • Masks
  • Bandanas
  • Scarves
  • etc

We see a lot of people improperly wearing medical masks in grocery stores and understand their desire for protection. But please keep in mind, that the CDC recommends that those masks be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders! However, if you use one, especially if you fit into one of the higher risk groups for infections, or if you are infected or suspect you could be infected, please know the following information to keep you safe. 

There are two kinds of medical masks: surgical masks and N95 respirators. 

Surgical masks are worn by health care providers during surgeries. They are not worn to protect the surgery team, but to protect the patient, should, for example, the surgeon spit while they talk. 

It is unclear how effective they are for virus protection; but under the current circumstances, they can be worn as a barrier. (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200403132345.htm).

N95 masks are called N95 because they block out 95% of viral particles. They are worn by health care providers who take care of patients with an infectious respiratory illness. In professional settings, you have to be fit tested for those masks, to ensure safety. 

Both surgical masks and N95 are disposable medical face masks intended for a single-use only. They have to be put on, taken off, and disposed of in a specific way to maintain safety. 

If you use one of these masks, read here how to wear them for your use from a medical perspective:  

Put the mask on with both strings up high on the scalp.

The metal prong is to fit over your nose and you squeeze it as tight as possible.

Don’t touch the front of the mask while you wear it. Not even if you need to scratch an itch or make a phone call.

Remove mask by pulling the elastic ear straps or laces from behind.

If you take your masks off in your car and plan on reusing it, hang it on your rearview mirror and let it dry. If you would like, you can spray it with a 70% isopropyl alcohol spray, it may help somewhat sanitize the mask. (You can buy the isopropyl alcohol in drug stores and grocery stores, then fill it in a spray bottle for your intended use). 

Always follow any mask handling by washing or sanitizing your hands.

Bandanas, scarves, etc are the recommended choices of face covering for the general public by the CDC. 

As with medical masks, don’t touch them other than by the strings and cover both mouth and nose entirely. 

These coverings can be worn multiple times and should be washed regularly depending on the frequency of use, ideally after each use. A regular washing machine should suffice in properly washing them. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html.)

Be Aware

Some people experience problems breathing with their masks on. If you have a medical reason like asthma you may be exempt from wearing a mask, please talk to your doctor. 

If you feel nauseous or dizzy while wearing your mask, see if you can find a place to sit down, and carefully take your mask off and take some deep breaths. This happened to me the other day in the middle of Costco. Out of the blue. After a few deep breaths without my mask, I started to recover and feel better again. 

I was curious why this happened and did some quick research. 

When we inhale we bring oxygen to our lungs, where it is transported by red blood cells to the entire body to be used to produce energy. Once the red blood cells return to the lungs, carbon dioxide is exhaled.

If our body doesn’t get enough oxygen, we can experience fainting, hyperventilation, confusion, fatigue, poor concentration, and more. 

I had been wearing my mask for over an hour that day already, and my body may literally have grown tired of the lowered oxygen levels! I also hadn’t been outside for my regular walk in a couple of days. Maybe it was just a fluke? I don’t know. But I used this predicament as a reminder to ensure that every day I try to get enough fresh air as possible to feed my lungs fresh air. Also, I try to limit the timing of my outings that require wearing a mask.

Try to go outside every day to get your physical exercise and fresh air. Two benefits in one activity! Double whammy! And when you are on a walk outside, even if it may just be in the parking lot of the grocery store, take some deep breaths and inhale as much fresh air as you can. It is a great way to strengthen your lungs and oxygenate your blood. 


And please remember, wearing a mask is supposed to help decrease our risk of exposure, it won’t eliminate it. And particularly, masks are not so much protecting the wearer but the others around us. Hence it is very important to wear your mask around vulnerable risk groups. Likewise, for the most vulnerable it is important to understand that masks worn by themselves or others don’t fully protect them, and hence they ought to take additional appropriate safety precautions as they see fit. We have a responsibility towards the others and ourselves!

If you see someone not wearing their mask, try not to get upset, it only hurts you by adding stress on your immune system. 

Let us also try not to shame others, who don’t wear a mask, we may feel the instinctive urge to do so in our concern over the potential adverse impact of the virus on our health, but damaged relationships are damaging our community too. 

Plus, maybe the person not wearing the mask cannot wear it for medical reasons! 

If you are concerned and feel upset, maybe it helps you to say something, respectfully, to educate those not wearing their mask on why this is important to you and how it makes you feel. Sometimes this goes a long way! 

Stay well, breathe well,  be blessed! 


National Coronavirus website. https://www.coronavirus.gov

State of Illinois Coronavirus website. https://coronavirus.illinois.gov/s/

WHO. https://www.who.int

Science Daily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200403132345.htm

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