Face Mask/Covering Guidance
Needham Public Health Division
Our best community and individual defense against COVID-19 is washing our hands frequently, avoiding touching our eyes, nose, and mouth, avoiding being around sick people and practicing physical distancing, especially by staying at home. Face coverings are not a replacement for these other evidence-based measures; they are an additional tool that may be used to protect us from exposure to COVID-19 when used properly. Cloth face coverings are not required to be worn by the general public and are not a substitute for existing guidance about social (physical) distancing and frequent handwashing.
Q: What does the order require?
A: The order requires the use of face coverings in a variety of settings including businesses, work sites, and government buildings. The use of face coverings is also required in the common areas of commercial and residential building complexes. The requirement applies to employees as well as to customers, visitors, and the general public. There is no requirement that face coverings be worn outdoors, but Needham Health encourages individuals to do so, particularly if they are unable to practice social distancing.
Q: Why wear a face cover?
A: Individuals can be contagious before the onset of symptoms. You may be contagious and not know it. If you have covered your nose and mouth, you can limit the spread of COVID-19. People also touch their faces less when their face is covered. Touching your face after touching something contaminated with COVID-19 increases your chances of getting sick with COVID-19.
Q: Why is this order being presented now?
A: While most business owners and residents in Needham are voluntarily complying with guidance encouraging everyone to wear face masks in public, we know that there are still a minority of those who are not adhering to guidance. Further, as the Commonwealth and Town consider how and when to re-open, we must have in place robust infection control measures such as face masks.
Q: When does this order take effect and how long will it be in effect for?
A: This emergency order takes effect on Friday May 1, 2020 at 6:01 a.m. and has been extended until September 1, 2020, 11:59PM.
Q: Who should NOT wear a mask?
A: Face coverings or masks should not be placed on children younger than 5 years of age, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the face covering or mask without assistance.
Q: Will the Town provide residents with masks?
A: To date, the Town has prioritized distributing masks to essential workers. The Town does not have a supply of masks large enough to provide one to every resident of the Town. Masks can be easily made using old clothing and other cloth items. To see how to make your own mask, view this video https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html
Q: What kind of face covering do I need to wear?
A: A face covering of any kind that covers the mouth and nose is acceptable. This includes cloth masks, non-medical grade surgical masks and other types of face coverings. There is still a shortage of medical-grade masks, so we are asking the public to avoid using one of those if possible.
Q: How will this be enforced?
A: We acknowledge that this will be a challenge to enforce, but this is now a Town requirement. Residents and businesses need to comply so that everyone can remain healthy and safe. The Board of Health does have the ability to close any establishment that refuses to comply with the regulation. A business has the right to refuse service to any patron who is not wearing a face covering.
Q: Do you still have to social distance even when wearing a mask?
A: Yes. Even when wearing a face covering you should maintain social distancing to protect others and to protect yourself from others.
Q: What are my face covering options?
A: Acceptable, reusable face covering options for the general public include:
- Homemade masks
- Neck gaiter
- Tightly woven fabric, such as cotton t-shirts and some types of towels
Q: How should I care for a cloth face covering?
A: It’s a good idea to wash your cloth face covering frequently, ideally after each use, or at least daily. Have a bag or bin to store cloth face coverings until they can be laundered with detergent and hot water. If you must re-wear your cloth face covering before washing, wash your hands immediately after putting it back on and avoid touching your face. Discard cloth face coverings that:
- No longer cover the nose and mouth
- Have stretched out or damaged ties or straps
- Cannot stay on the face
- Have holes or tears in the fabric
You should NOT use a facemask such as a surgical mask or N95 mask meant for a healthcare worker.
What is a cloth face covering?
A cloth face covering is a material that covers the nose and mouth. It can be secured to the head with ties or straps or simply wrapped around the lower face. It can be made of a variety of materials, such as cotton, silk, or linen. A cloth face covering may be factory-made or sewn by hand or can be improvised from household items such as scarfs, T-shirts, sweatshirts, or towels.
Here are some videos of non-sew options for a face covering.