NEW YORK - Based on "evolving evidence," the World Health Organization now—several months into the global coronavirus pandemic—is strengthening is recommendations about wearing a mask or other face covering.
And the United Nations agency is also being more specific about what kind of face covering should be worn.
"WHO advises that governments should encourage the general public to wear masks where there is widespread transmission and physical distancing is difficult, such as on public transport, in shops or in other confined or crowded environments," Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of WHO, said on Friday. "In areas with community transmission, we advise that people aged 60 years or over, or those with underlying conditions, should wear a medical mask in situations where physical distancing is not possible."
Tedros noted that wearing a mask can give you a false sense of security and does not replace keeping your distance from others and frequently washing your hands.
DOs: How to wear a non-medical fabric mask safely. (World Health Organization)
"People can potentially infect themselves if they use contaminated hands to adjust a mask, or to repeatedly take it off and put it on, without cleaning hands in between," Tedros said. "I cannot say this clearly enough: masks alone will not protect you from COVID-19."
A cloth mask should be made from three layers of different materials, according to Tedros, based on new evidence. WHO issued revised guidance for the general public about the type mask and how to wear it to maximize your safety.
DON'Ts: How to wear a non-medical fabric mask safely. (World Health Organization)
In a new video, WHO advises you either make or obtain a fabric mask made from three layers of materials:
- The outer layer should be a water-resistant fabric.
- The inner layer should be water-absorbant.
- The middle layer acts as a filter.
WHO urges you to be careful when handling your mask because of the danger of contaminating your hands and then potentially spreading germs to your face.
After initially balking at calling on the general public to wear masks out of fear that people would horde a dwindling supply of medical-grade personal protective equipment, officials in New York in April began urging New Yorkers to wear a face covering when in public. About a week later, state officials mandated wearing a mask while using public transit.