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April 03, 2020

Here's how to make your own face mask for when you need to leave home

To mitigate coronavirus spread, Pennsylvania officials and the CDC urge all residents to wear protection

Pennsylvania residents are now encouraged to wear cloth face masks when leaving their homes during the COVID-19 crisis.

But both state and local health officials stressed that the new recommendation is not an invitation for people to begin congregating outside – even as the weather warms. 

“Non-medical masks can protect the people around you,” Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said. “But they are most assuredly not a reason to go outside more. Our guidance remains: stay at home, unless you need essential goods, like food, or need some brief exercise.” 

Such masks do not protect the person wearing them; rather they prevent people from spreading whatever germs they may have. Because some 25% of people with COVID-19 do not display symptoms, all residents are urged to wear one in public. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention later issued the same recommendation. 

“Wearing a mask will help us cut down the possibility that we might be infecting an innocent bystander, like the grocery store cashier, the pharmacist, or someone stocking shelves,” Gov. Tom Wolf said. “These people are keeping us alive by getting us the supplies we need. We owe it to them to do everything we can to keep them safe. Right now, that means wearing a mask.”

People are urged against wearing N95 respirators and surgical masks – those are desperately needed for medical personnel, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said. Instead, she advised purchasing a cloth mask online or wearing a bandanna. 

Residents also can make a mask using common household items. See the instructions, provided by state health officials, below:

Materials Needed

• Fabric (100% cotton is most effective)
• Fabric ties
• Scissors
• A sewing machine or needle and thread


Measure and cut two equal rectangles from the fabric so that they fit snugly around the face. The mask will be two-layered. A 12 inch by 6 inch pattern is standard for adults. 
Tightly sew both rectangles together on all four edges. 
Cut fabric ties so that they fit around the ears.
Sew the ties to the insides of the mask on the smaller edge and repeat on both sides.
Resew the sides to ensure a tight seal between both pieces of fabric and the earpiece.
Measure and cut two pieces of fabric in a rectangle pattern to fit snugly around the face (size 12 inches by 6 inches is standard for adults)

For people who are more visually-minded, Philadelphia officials recommend the video below:

Health officials recommend people wash their hands before putting on their masks. They should be washed or discarded after each use. Masks should not be worn if they are damp or wet from spit or mucus. When removing the mask, people should avoid touching the front. They should wash their hands immediately after taking it off. 

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