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COVID-19 and face masks

COVID-19 - cloth face coverings; COVID-19 - face coverings; Coronavirus - face masks

In places where COVID-19 is spreading, wearing a face mask in public helps protect other people from possible infection with COVID-19. Other people who wear masks help protect you from infection. Wearing a face mask may also protect you from infection.

Wearing face masks helps reduce the spray of respiratory droplets from the nose and mouth. Using face masks in public settings helps reduce the spread of COVID-19.


Face masks prevent the spread of COVID-19
How to wear a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19


COVID-19 hospital admission levels help communities decide what prevention steps to take to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. You can look up the COVID-19 hospital admission level in your area on the CDC website.

Here are the CDC mask recommendations for all people age 2 and older based on the hospital admission level in your area.




Regardless of how low community spread may be, you may choose to wear a mask at any time.

You should wear a mask if you:

How Masks Help Protect People From COVID-19

COVID-19 spreads most readily to people with close contact (about 6 feet or 2 meters). When someone with the illness coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice, respiratory droplets spray into the air. You and others can catch the illness if you breathe in these droplets, or if you touch these droplets and then touch your eye, nose, mouth, or face.

Wearing a face mask over your nose and mouth keeps droplets from spraying out into the air when you are speaking, coughing, or sneezing. Wearing a mask also helps keep you from touching your face.

About Face Masks

When choosing a face mask, follow these recommendations:

The CDC provides more detailed information on ways to increase mask protection.

Learn how to properly wear and care for a face mask:

Face masks should not be worn by:

For some people, or in some situations, wearing a face mask may be difficult. Examples include:

In these types of situations, staying at least 6 feet away (2 meters) from others is particularly important. Being outside can also help. There may be other ways to adapt as well, for example, some face masks are made with a piece of clear plastic so the wearer's lips can be seen. You can also talk with your health care provider to discuss other ways to adapt to the situation.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. COVID-19: COVID-19 by county. Updated May 11, 2023. Accessed June 23, 2023.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. COVID-19: Use and care of masks. Updated May 11, 2023. Accessed June 23, 2023.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. COVID-19: Types of masks and respirators. Updated May 11, 2023. Accessed June 23, 2023.


Review Date: 2/22/2023  

Reviewed By: Frank D. Brodkey, MD, FCCM, Associate Professor, Section of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. Editorial update 06/23/2023.

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