When masks are good
Masks help slow the spread of the virus. They help to protect the medically vulnerable and those unable to get vaccinated.
Masks are good to wear as protection against getting or spreading COVID-19 whenever:
- Community spread is high, like during surges
- You want protection in indoor public settings, or in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces
- You, or someone you live with or spend time with, is at risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19
- You feel at risk
- You are concerned about long COVID
People may choose to wear masks, even when they are not required. Respect the choices others make for their health.
When you must wear a mask
No matter your vaccine status, you must wear a mask in the following places:
- A healthcare setting, like a hospital or clinic
- Long-term care facilities and adult and senior care centers (including nursing homes)
- Jail or juvenile hall
You must also wear a mask wherever a business, venue operator, host, or transportation organization requires it. Always bring a mask with you in case you need it.
Masks and transportation
Masks are recommended when you are:
- On public transportation (or waiting for it indoors)
- Driving or riding in a taxi or rideshare vehicle
A transportation organization may choose to want more protection and require everyone to wear masks. You must follow the organization's masking requirements.
Consider masking when you feel sick
Learn about staying away from others, testing, and when to wear a mask if you:
- Are feeling sick and may have COVID-19
- Have tested positive
- Had a close contact with someone who has COVID-19
Children and masks
Children under 2 years old should never wear a mask. They might suffocate.
Masks are not required at in-person school, youth programs, and childcare programs unless a school or program chooses to require them. Check with your school or program to see if you need to wear a mask.
Who does not have to wear masks
You do not have to wear a mask when it is required if:
- You are under 2 years old
- You have a physical, intellectual, or developmental disability that keeps you from wearing a mask.
- You have a letter from a medical professional saying you do not need to wear one because of your condition. The document does not need to explain your medical condition. The documentation should include the contact and license information of the medical professional.
- You will create a safety hazard at work (under established health and safety guidelines) by wearing anything on your face while at work.
- You have trouble breathing or are not able to take off your mask without help.
- You’re deaf and use facial and mouth movements as part of communication. You should remove your mask while communicating.
Wear masks that fit well and filter out the virus
To work, masks must fit well over your nose and mouth.
Wear masks with good filtration. They block virus particles from going through the mask itself.
Here are types of masks that work best:
- N95, KN95, and KF94 respirators
- Well-fitting medical masks
Double masking is an effective way to improve filtration and fit.
First put on a medical mask because the material is better at blocking virus particles. Then wear a close-fitting cloth mask on top of it to improve the seal of the mask to your face.
When to wear a more effective mask
It is better to wear an N95, KN95, KF94, double mask, or fitted medical mask when you are:
- With people at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19
- Taking care of or living with people who have or been exposed to COVID-19
- Indoors with unvaccinated people or where you don’t know if they are vaccinated
- Indoors with poor ventilation
- In crowded places where you cannot distance from other people
Keep it clean
If you’re outside your home and your face covering gets wet, have another face covering ready to replace it.
Wash your reusable face coverings frequently, ideally after each use. Wash in the warmest water possible, dry on the highest heat, and leave in the dryer until completely dry.
Clean your hands before and after touching your face, mask, or face covering.
The CDC has instructions on how to wear and clean your face covering.