LOGO 2019
Making your own cloth mask - woman using a mask template to hand sew a mask

To Mask or Not to Mask? Understanding Changing COVID-19 Guidelines

By Kristy Warren


To mask or not to mask...that is the question! The Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is new, so as scientists learn more about how it behaves, you can expect guidelines to change to match new information.


Masks have always been recommended for sick patients with respiratory symptoms, but experts now recommend everyone wear cloth masks in public settings. Why? Because people can spread the virus before they show symptoms, and cloth masks can help stop people from spreading COVID-19 when they don’t know they have it. 


Public settings make it harder to practice what we know works best: social distancing. The goal of wearing a cloth mask in public is to contain more of your breath, coughs, or sneezes in areas where it’s harder to maintain six feet of distance (e.g., a grocery store checkout line). 



The CDC recommends that everyone use a cloth mask or cloth face covering when out in public. The mask should fit snugly, covering your nose and mouth entirely. 

Surgical masks and respirators are not recommended for public use at this time, as supply chains are still ramping up to meet production needs and those types of masks are most critically needed by healthcare workers, EMS, sick patients, and their home caregivers, who are dealing with COVID-19 exposure up-close and often.

Learn about the different mask types, how they work, and how to wear them properly in the PA Department of Health graphics below:

What type of COVID-19 mask you should wear; graphic provided by the PA Dept. of Health


Cloth masks are now recommended for everyone when out in public or working / visiting an essential business. Wearing a mask helps protect others, but wearing your mask the wrong way can actually make things worse! Your mask should fit snugly but comfortably and cover your mouth and nose completely.

How to wear a mask properly featuring checklist of dos and don'ts; graphic provided by the PA Dept. of Health (DOH)


  • A cloth mask should include multiple layers of fabric and allow for non-restricted breathing.

  • Before putting on a mask, clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer.

  • Fully cover both your mouth and nose with the mask at all times.

  • Make sure the mask fits snugly against your face (i.e., no gaps between your face and the mask).

  • Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you touched the mask to readjust it, wash your hands.

  • Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp or soiled.

  • Wash reusable masks often, and do not wear single-use masks more than once.

  • When removing the mask, do not touch the front of mask. Remove it using the ear loops or ties.

  • Immediately put a used cloth mask into the laundry or a secured storage bag; if removing a soiled, damp, or one-time use mask, discard it directly into a trash bin with a closed top.

  • After removing the mask, immediately clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer.


Remember, wearing a mask does NOT mean you should relax your other COVID-19 prevention strategies.Think of a cloth mask as another tool in your prevention kit. It is still critically important to follow distancing and hand washing recommendations.


The best ways to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 are:

  • Stay home as often as you're able
  • Stay six feet apart
  • Wash your hands often for 20 seconds with soap & warm water
  • Wear a cloth mask when in public

Cloth masks can be fashioned out of material you have at home like an old t-shirt. Need help making a cloth mask? See below for easy how-to instructions. If you are unable to make your own mask, contact the Tioga County Partnership for Community Health to request a cloth mask at 570-723-0520.

How to make a cloth mask; graphic provided by the PA Dept. of Health

Remember, if you feel sick, you should stay home and call your healthcare provider for advice. You can often be seen right from home. All Laurel Health locations offer telemedicine visits by phone or video chat, and by calling ahead, you protect other patients and allow our staff time to assess and prepare for your care. 

The Laurel Health Centers are available 24/7 to answer health questions, review symptoms, direct care, and schedule appointments. We offer both in-person and telehealth visits at each location.

Call your local Laurel Heath Center or 1-833-LAURELHC (1-833-528-7354) day or night to receive the quality care you deserve, whenever you need it!