The CDC Is Reminding People That Face Masks Shouldn’t Be Worn Below the Chin


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Here’s what to do if you need to remove your face mask in public.

Why is moving your face mask under your chin or on your forehead so risky?
There are a few reasons why this can be a problem, says infectious disease expert
senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “If you’re going to wear a mask, it needs to be worn correctly to be
it should fit snugly
against the sides of your face while allowing you to breathe properly.
The novel coronavirus spreads via respiratory droplets from your mouth or nose when you sneeze, cough, or simply talk—even if you may not
have symptoms
. When you leave those areas exposed, your mask cannot contain those particles, so “wearing it in a way that excludes your mouth and nose doesn’t serve any purpose,” Dr. Adalja says. Remember: You are wearing a mask to protect others from
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While your cloth mask isn’t sterile, you still want to try to keep it as clean and free from environmental contaminants as possible—including those that can be on your skin or hands. There’s also the fact that you need to use your hands to move your mask. “To move it to your forehead or chin involves touching the mask, which could contaminate it,” Dr. Adalja says.
William Schaffner, M.D.
, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, agrees. “You want to touch your mask as little as possible,” he says. While you’re out and about, it’s possible to make contact with a
with the virus.

So, touching your face mask with unclean hands may actually transfer the virus (if you happen upon it) to the exact area you don’t want it: your face.
That said, touching surfaces is not thought to be the main way COVID-19 spreads,
, but it’s better to practice caution with a newly discovered virus.
What should you do when you need to remove your mask in public?
If you’re out in public for long periods of time, you’re probably going to want to move your mask at some point to eat, drink, or catch your breath if you are exercising (when you are no longer around others).
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When you need to remove your mask, Dr. Adalja recommends first washing your hands with soap or water or using hand sanitizer. Then, remove the mask by the ear loops, making sure not to touch the part that goes over your face.
If you think of it before you leave your home, pack a resealable plastic bag. You can place your mask in there while it’s off your face. If you forget or don’t have any bags handy, your pocket or bag should not be a huge risk, Dr. Schaffner says. “Just put it aside someplace safe, if you can,” he adds.
When you’re ready to put your mask back on, clean your hands again, and place it over your mouth
nose while trying to only touch the ear loops.
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