In Miami, Florida, city employees are now issuing civil infractions for those not wearing face masks in public. The first incident will result in a warning, but the second will result in a $50 fine and the fines increase from there. "The third instance, it's a $150 fine and a fourth, it's a $500 fine, and it could ultimately be an arrestable offense after that," says Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.
"The civil infractions that were approved today illustrate the serious situation we find ourselves in," the city manager, Art Noriega, told reporters this week.
Meanwhile, a state-wide order in Washington State means face masks are mandatory there starting June 26. Children under 5 are exempt. "I highly appreciate the efforts of those who already wear masks in public on a regular basis and urge others to join us in this critical measure to control the virus," Secretary of Health John Wiesman explained in written statement. "We all have a role in trying to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities."
This comes weeks after New York's Gov. Cuomo strongly suggested masks for his constituents.
New York State (along with Maryland, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and several municipalities including Los Angeles County) already have regulations in place requiring cloth face masks in public wherever social distancing could not be guaranteed.
The Centers for Disease Control, which advises people to wear a cloth mask if they need to go out in public in a place where social distancing would be hard. The CDC is not asking people to wear masks all the time, just when you're going somewhere public like the grocery store, the pharmacy or using mass transit—places where it may be hard to keep your distance from others.
This week a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows that two-thirds of Americans support making mask-wearing mandatory as 30 states are seeing increasing rates of infection.
Here's what you need to know about face mask recommendations:
The CDC says it's recommending cloth face masks because studies show that people can have COVID-19 while asymptomatic, meaning they feel fine and because they don't know they are sick they might still be going about their daily routine in their community.
Basically, masks don't protect the wearer as much as they protect people from the wearer (who might not know they are sick) by blocking respiratory droplets "So it's not going to protect you, but it is going to protect your neighbor," Dr. Daniel Griffin at Columbia University, an expert on infectious diseases, tells NPR.
CDC experts are "advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure."
They say if you're going somewhere where it's hard to maintain the proper social distance of six feet, like a grocery store or a pharmacy, then it's a good idea to wear a simple cloth mask.
"The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance," the CDC states.
"You may need to improvise a cloth face covering using a scarf or bandana," the agency notes on its website.
A DIY cloth mask is an extra layer of protection
The CDC still says that staying home and practicing good hand hygiene is the best protection against COVID-19, but a cloth mask would be an extra layer of protection if you must go out to get food or unavoidable medical care.
According to Dr. Scott Segal, chair of anesthesiology at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, certain types of fabric are better than others when it comes to making a mask. While he CDC says improvised bandanas or scarfs are better than nothing, Segal says DIY mask makers should aim a little higher for the masks to be effective.
"You have to use relatively high-quality cloth," Dr.Segal, who is researching this topic, told NBC News.
According to Segal you don't want to use a knit fabric (like an old T-shirt) but rather a woven fabric. He suggests a double layer of heavyweight cotton with a thread count of at least 180 (like quilters cotton). If you don't have a cotton with that high of a thread count, line it with flannel.
For more tips on how to sew a fabric face mask, check out these instructions from Kaiser Permanente.
How to make no-sew face masks
If you're not a sewer you can still fashion a mask, and there are plenty of no-sew tutorials online showing you how. Use heavyweight woven fabric like Segal suggests and make one of these without a sewing machine.
How To Make a Pleated Face Mask // Washable, Reusable, No-Sewing Required youtu.be
Should kids wear masks?
The CDC says "Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance." Babies' faces should not be covered, they should not wear masks.
For older kids, the CDC is not recommending masks if you're just going for a walk around the block or playing in the backyard (which is the extent of most kids' outings these days). The masks are more for grocery runs, which many parents are opting to do alone these days.
But solo parents and those with partners who are in the military know that leaving the kids behind isn't always an option if you're the only adult in the home. If that's your circumstance, choose delivery options when possible to avoid taking your children to public places like grocery stores and pharmacies (the kinds of places the CDC recommends masks for).
If you are concerned that you may need to take your child somewhere where a mask would be required, call your pediatrician for advice on whether a mask is appropriate for your child's age and circumstances.
[This post was originally published April 3, 2020. It has been updated.]