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After learning that a significant portion of people can transmit the novel coronavirus without knowing they’re infected — either because they lack symptoms, or because their symptoms haven’t developed yet — the CDC has recommended the use of cloth face coverings in public settings to prevent community transmission. The CDC is advising the general public to use non-medical cloth face coverings rather than surgical masks or N95 respirators. Critical supplies should be reserved for those who need them most, such as healthcare workers. Cloth face coverings also don’t replace other CDC guidelines; it’s still essential to maintain 6 feet of social distancing and to wash your hands frequently. Where and when to wear a face mask in publicYou should wear a cloth face covering in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, like grocery stores, transit stations, and pharmacies — and especially in areas with significant community-based transmission. If you live in cities such as New York and San Francisco, face coverings are mandatory if you’re going out in public. Exceptions to the rule are children under the age of two, and anyone who has trouble breathing or is otherwise unable to remove a mask without assistance. Where to buy cloth face masksSome retailers are repurposing their production facilities to manufacture simple cloth face masks available for purchase by the general public. You’ll find brands selling face masks you can buy or pre-order now below. All the masks are washable, and they should be machine-washed between every wear. Most of the masks are pretty similar, with the main difference being the shipping date and features like a pocket for a filter and whether they tie in the back or loop around the ears. Note that filters haven’t been shown to increase the effectiveness of the masks, but we’ve noted which ones do have pockets for filters if you choose to use them.It’s also worth mentioning there are often long wait times and likely no refunds or returns.How to make your own face mask at homeIf you can’t buy a cloth mask or don’t want to wait for the estimated shipping date, you can make one at home using household items, like a bandana and a coffee filter. You can also find an ASL Video Series: Easy DIY Cloth Face Covering on YouTube. Why are face masks important, and how do they help?Wearing face masks in public is firstly about social responsibility — protecting others from your germs — more than protecting you from them. The CDC’s guidelines say that “cloth face coverings may prevent the person wearing the mask from spreading respiratory droplets when talking, sneezing, or coughing. If everyone wears a cloth face covering when out in public, such as going to the grocery store, the risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 can be reduced for the community.”Even if you don’t feel sick, you could easily be one of the estimated 25% of contagious people with coronavirus who feel completely fine. “If everyone wears a mask when in public, the ones who have illness in them, whether symptomatic or not, will not contaminate the environment,” Chris Ziebell, an emergency medical director for US Acute Care Solutions, told Business Insider.But, if you properly wear a mask with at least two layers of heavy material (including cotton), you can decrease your own risk. Carbon and/or HEPA filters can help block even smaller particles than regular cloth, so look for those materials if you’re opting for a mask with space for a filter. It’s also just as important for your own safety to practice social distancing, wash your hands, and avoid touching your face. Lastly, be sure to wash your cloth masks between every use.Who should avoid wearing masks?There are some people who should not wear masks. According to the CDC, this includes “children under age 2, or anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.”25 places where you can buy cloth face masks online:This list includes a Sponsored Product that has been suggested by Redbubble. It also meets our editorial criteria in terms of quality and value.*