COVID-19: Wear a Mask

Red mask icon

Wearing a mask helps stop the spread of COVID-19—science says so!

Protect your loved ones, neighbors, and fellow Wisconsinites by wearing a face covering. Science shows that wearing a face covering can prevent the transmission of the respiratory droplets that spread COVID-19. Rates of COVID-19 have significantly increased in Wisconsin as more people have returned to work and are having more interactions in public. Wearing a face covering is the simplest way to slow and prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus without requiring people stay in their homes. Governor Evers issued Emergency Order #1 on July 30, 2020, requiring face coverings indoors and in enclosed spaces.

When should I wear a face covering?

  • Indoor spaces when you are not at home
  • Enclosed spaces such as outdoor restaurants or bars, public transportation, and ride-shares

When do I not need to wear a face covering?

  • Inside your home around your core family
  • Outdoors

Notice: Masks are required at public indoor spaces

We understand that not everyone can wear a face covering for medical or safety reasons. People who can wear a face covering should do so to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Answers to common questions we are asked

Why should I wear a cloth face covering?

COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets that are released when a sick (infected) person coughs, sneezes, or breathes. These droplets can remain in the air and on surfaces for an extended period of time. When people breathe in (inhale) the droplets, or touch surfaces that have been contaminated and then touch their mouth, face, or eyes, the virus can make them sick. Cloth face coverings help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others, which means they are most likely to reduce spread when they are widely used. They are not a replacement for physical distancing and are most effective when combined with other preventive measures.

What is a cloth face covering?

A cloth face cover is material that covers the nose and mouth while being secured to the head or ears with ties, straps, or simply wrapped around the lower face.

How effective are cloth face coverings at preventing the spread of the virus?

Cloth face coverings are recommended because they form a barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people. Droplets are released when someone coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice, which is why consistently wearing the face covering is important. This is called source control and is based on what we know about the role respiratory droplets play in the spread of COVID-19, paired with evidence from clinical and laboratory studies that show cloth face coverings reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth. Because COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet), the use of cloth face coverings is especially important in settings where people are close to each other or where practicing physical distancing is difficult.

How should I wear a cloth face covering?

To wear a cloth face covering, keep these things in mind:

  • Before putting on a cloth face covering, clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Put it over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin, making sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.
  • Avoid touching your face covering while wearing it.
  • Make sure you can breathe easily.

Keep in mind that a cloth face covering does not provide full protection. Therefore, remember to continue to do the following:

  • Clean your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Continue staying at least 6 feet away from other people.
  • Continue following the recommendations for social distancing: avoid crowds, stay at home as much as possible, and just leave for essential tasks (for example, work, grocery shopping, going to the doctor, getting medications).

Is it safe for people with asthma to wear a cloth face covering?

What to know about asthma and masks during COVID-19

Wearing a face covering is one of the most effective ways to fight the spread of COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In order to avoid contracting the coronavirus, the CDC, national lung organizations, and asthma doctors across the country agree that it’s especially important for people with asthma and other lung diseases to wear a mask or face covering, stay 6 feet away from people who don’t live with them, and frequently wash their hands.

Here are answers to common questions about people with asthma wearing a mask:

  1. Are masks safe for people with asthma?
    The CDC, World Health Organization, asthma doctors and other national health organizations recommend that people with asthma wear a mask when they can’t keep a safe distance from other people. They also agree that masks are safe for people with controlled asthma.
  2. What kind of mask should I wear?
    • A loose-fitting, traditional cloth mask or surgical mask are the best choices.
    • Make sure it's comfortable, fits your face, covers your nose and mouth, and tucks under your chin.
    • Try different mask types if one kind is uncomfortable.
    • Choose a latex-free mask if you have a latex allergy.
  3. What kind of mask should I avoid?
    • Avoid a tight-fitting mask like N-95. Ask your doctor if you need a special mask.
    • Don't use masks with valves because air droplets can escape through the valves, potentially exposing people around you to the coronavirus.
  4. Will my asthma symptoms worsen while wearing a mask?
    People over age 2 with asthma should be able to breathe through cloth or standard medical masks without trouble. There is enough airflow from gaps around the mask and through it that provide plenty of oxygen.
  5. What if I experience difficulty breathing while wearing a mask?
    • If a person with asthma has impaired breathing or other challenges while wearing a mask, it could be a sign of poorly controlled asthma. Follow your asthma management plan to control symptoms. If problems persist, contact your doctor right away.
    • Try a different mask style to see if it is more tolerable.
    • Talk more slowly, which can improve air flow.
    • If you’re outside and at least 6 feet away from other people, take a break from your mask, but keep it accessible.
  6. Can I wear a face shield instead of a mask?
    Wearing a face shield alone doesn’t limit the spread of air droplets as effectively as face coverings. Consider wearing a face shield with your mask if you cannot keep at least 6 feet away from other people.
  7. Should I wear a mask during exercise?
    • Exercising while wearing a mask should not trigger an asthma attack if your asthma is under control.
    • When exercising outside, keep at least 6 feet away from others.
    • During hot or humid weather, stay in air conditioning, or exercise outdoors early in the morning or in the evening when temperatures are lower.
  8. What can I do if my job requires wearing a mask?
    You may be required to wear a mask or face covering as part of your job. If you have trouble breathing while wearing a mask, talk to your employer about other strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19. People with asthma are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and can ask for reasonable accommodations like working from home, taking more frequent breaks, or wearing a face shield.
  9. What are some other benefits of wearing a mask?
    Wearing a mask can also help block asthma triggers like common cold viruses, flu virus, cold air, pollen, and animal dander.
  10. Where can I get more information?

*Adapted from materials developed by the Michigan Department of Health & Human Resources’ Asthma Program.

How should I clean my cloth face covering?

It’s a good idea to wash your cloth face covering frequently, ideally after each use, or at least daily. Use regular laundry detergent and a warm or hot water setting. Dry on high heat or lay flat and allow to air dry in sunlight if possible. Do not wear when damp.

How can I get a cloth face covering?

How to make a cloth face covering from a t-shirt without sewing: P02646AIf you need a cloth face covering but do not have access to one, you may be able to make your own by sewing one. There is no standard design for homemade cloth face coverings, but there are many patterns and instructions online from hospitals and other organizations.

If making your own cloth face covering, keep the following in mind:

  1. Build a cloth face covering that tightly encloses the area around the nose and mouth, from the bridge of the nose down to the chin, and extending onto the cheek beyond the corners of the mouth, so no gaps occur when talking or moving.
  2. Use material that is tightly woven but breathable. Possibly double-layer the fabric.
    • Cloth face coverings must be made from washable fabric.
    • Choose a fabric that can handle high temperatures and bleach without shrinking or otherwise deforming.
  3. The cloth face covering should be tolerant of expected amounts of moisture from breathing.
  4. Suggested materials: Outer layer tea cloth, inner layer of a microfleece to wick away moisture, and an inner tea cloth layer. Use an accordion fold to mimic a hospital mask as much as possible and use a fat woven shoelace type material to bind the sides (such as quilt binding). For straps, use elastic straps that loop behind the ears.

Online instructions and patterns:

For additional information, see the CDC's Considerations for Wearing Cloth Face Coverings.

Last Revised: November 25, 2020

 The information on this page contains Department of Health Services (DHS) recommendations, some of which may be required based on state or local orders. Please contact your local or tribal health department for more information on COVID-19 related public health orders in your community.