Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Guidance on the Use of Masks

Beginning May 1, 2020, individuals in Illinois over two years old are required to wear masks in public where a 6-foot distance cannot be maintained. This includes indoor public spaces such as stores. 

SARS-CoV-2 is a novel coronavirus that has emerged and caused coronavirus disease (abbreviated as COVID-19). Public health experts continue to learn about COVID-19, but based on current data and similar coronaviruses, the virus is believed to be spread between close contacts via respiratory droplets or contact with contaminated surfaces. While staying home, social distancing and strict hand hygiene are still preferred methods for preventing further spread of COVID-19, wearing a mask is one more tool that may be used by the general public and essential workers to protect each other from respiratory droplets produced when we cough, sneeze or talk.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. Wearing a face mask will also help slow the spread between people who do not have symptoms and are unknowingly infected with COVID-19.

The most effective measures for preventing further spread of COVID-19 remain staying home when you are sick, maintain physical separation between other people while out in public (at least 6 feet) and frequently washing your hands with either soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

When to Wear a Mask 

All Illinoisans are required to wear as mask or face covering when in public or when a 6-foot distance cannot be maintained. Examples include:

  • Shopping at essential businesses, like grocery stores or pharmacies
  • Picking up food from the drive-thru or curbside pickup
  • While visiting your health care provider
  • Traveling on public transportation
  • Interacting with customers, clients or coworkers at essential businesses
  • Performing essential services for state and local government agencies, such as laboratory testing, where close interactions with other people are unavoidable
  • When feeling sick, coughing or sneezing

Situations that don’t require a mask or face covering include running or walking in your neighborhood, mowing the lawn, performing spring yard cleanup, gardening, washing your car in the driveway and other outdoor activities on your own property. 

By following this guidance when leaving your home, you will reduce exposure and help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Best Practices for Homemade Masks or Face Coverings 

Best practices for making and wearing homemade masks include:

  • Using materials available at home or buying materials online to avoid exposure in public places.
  • Purchasing masks made by small businesses, saving medical masks for health care workers and potentially helping the local economy.
  • Making masks from materials that will hold up to daily washing and drying. Wash and dry newly sewn masks before using them for the first time.
  • Having more than one mask per person so they can be laundered daily. This will also be helpful if your mask becomes wet, damaged or no longer fits and you need to replace it.
  • Cleaning your hands with alcohol-based hand sanitizers or soap and water before putting on a mask, immediately after removing it or if you touch the mask while using it.
  • The mask should fit snugly around your mouth and nose. A metal wire sewn or built into the mask will help it conform to the bridge of your nose.
  • Avoiding touching the mask while using it. If you do, wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Whether you use cotton fabrics, paper-based shop towels or other materials, try to strike a balance between the materials you already have at home, how easy it will be to breathe while wearing the mask for extended periods away from home and whether or not you would prefer to craft a new mask every day (paper) or wash and reuse your mask(s).
  • Replacing your mask when wet, damaged or if it no longer fits your face. Masks should not be worn damp or when wet from spit or mucus.
  • Try to avoid touching the outer surface of the mask when removing it. Remove the mask by untying it or unfastening the ear loops. Place it in a bag or bin away from small children or pets until it can be laundered.

This does not replace but enhances other IDPH guidance concerning social distancing and universal masking in congregate living facilities.

How do I care for my mask? 

It’s a good idea to wash your mask or face covering daily. Place your used masks in a bag or bin away from small children or pets until they can be laundered with detergent and dried on a hot cycle. If you need to remove and reuse your mask before washing, consider putting it in a plastic or paper bag (not your backpack or purse) and be mindful not to put the mask where others can touch it or where the mask will contaminate shared surfaces. Wash your hands immediately after putting on your mask and avoid touching your face.

Paper-based masks, like those crafted from shop towels, should be discarded after each use.

How do can I make my own mask or face covering? 

Below are a number of online resources with instructions for making homemade masks and face coverings from cloth fabric or paper:

CDC DIY Cloth Face Coverings (April 4) – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth...

CDC Recommendations for Cloth Face Covers – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-fac...

U.S. Surgeon General How to Make Your Own Face Covering (YouTube) – https://youtu.be/tPx1yqvJgf4 

CDC Cloth Face Covers FAQ – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-fac...

Pennsylvania Department of Public Health Guidance on Homemade Masks during COVID-19 – https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/Documents/Diseases%20and%20Conditions/H...

California Department of Public Health – https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Face-Coverings-Guidance....

Minnesota Department of Health Interim Guidance on Alternative Facemasks – http://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/hcp/masksalt.pdf

New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Face Coverings FAQ –https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/imm/covid-19-face-covering...

National Institutes of Health 3D Print Exchange – https://3dprint.nih.gov/collections/covid-19-response

JOANNE Fabric Stores – https://www.joann.com/make-to-give-response/

Easy No-Sew Shop Towel Mask (YouTube) – https://youtu.be/mai-UqdNRi8

Coronavirus Tips: How to make a mask without sewing (YouTube) – https://youtu.be/t7oE65D4jGkCoron


 FAQ for Businesses Concerning Use of Face Masks During COVID-19

This FAQ is intended to provide guidance regarding the application of the face-covering requirement in Executive Order 2020-32 for businesses and other places of public accommodation subject to Article 5 of the Illinois Human Rights Act, 775 ILCS 5/.

I. When Face-Coverings are Required

What does it mean to wear a face-covering?
A face-covering is a mask or cloth face-covering that is well secured and covers your nose and mouth. The face-covering should allow for breathing without restriction. There is no requirement to wear a hospital grade mask or other specific type or brand of face-covering. You may wear a homemade face-covering, provided that it fits closely and covers your nose and mouth. For more specific information on how to make or care for your face-covering, please visit the Illinois Department of Public Health’s website at http://www.dph.illinois.gov/covid19/community-guidance/mask-use.
Who is required to wear a face-covering?
Executive Order 2020-32 requires that any person over the age of two wear a face-covering when in a public place and unable to maintain a 6-foot social distance. Face-coverings are also required in public indoor spaces such as stores. Exceptions may be made for individuals with medical conditions or disabilities that prevent them from safely wearing a face-covering. For more information, please see the questions on reasonable accommodations.
Do I have to wear a face-covering even if I am not sick?
Yes. If you are in a public space, you are required to wear a face-covering even if you do not have symptoms or feel sick. Sometimes people with COVID-19 do not have symptoms such as a fever, cough or loss of taste and smell. However, they could unknowingly spread the virus to others. Wearing a face-covering helps prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Does my child need to wear a face-covering?
Yes. If your child is over two years old and does not have a medical condition or disability that prevents them from safely wearing a face-covering (such as respiratory, heart or sensory issues). Your child is also required to wear a face-covering if they are outdoors and unable to maintain a 6-foot distance from others or if they are in an indoor, public space such as a store.
Can a store or business turn me away if I do not have a face-covering?
Yes. A store or business can generally prohibit you from entering the building if you do not have a face-covering in order to protect the health of others. However, if you have a medical condition or disability that prevents you from safely wearing a face-covering, then you should speak with a store employee about a reasonable accommodation to help you obtain the services you need without endangering your health or the health of other shoppers. For more information, please see the questions on reasonable accommodations.
Am I required to wear a face-covering if I have already had COVID-19?
Yes. Even if you have already had COVID-19, you may still be contagious or have the ability to pass the virus to others.

II. Exceptions and Reasonable Accommodations

Can a business require that I remove my face-covering in order to check my identity?
Yes. There are certain circumstances when you may be required by a business to temporarily remove your face-covering for the purpose of checking identification, such as if you are purchasing alcohol, cannabis or certain medicine. If you are asked to remove your face-covering in order to check identification, you should stand behind a partition, when present, or at least 6 feet away from other people and remove your face-covering carefully and without touching your face or the inside of the face-covering. You may ask the business to use hand sanitizer before removing your face-covering.
What if I have a medical condition or disability that prevents me from wearing a face-covering?
If you have a medical condition or disability that prevents you from safely wearing a face-covering, you cannot be required to wear one. However, if you cannot wear one, you will need to request a reasonable accommodation and take extra precautions to protect yourself and others from contracting COVID-19. For more information, please see the questions on reasonable accommodations.
What is a reasonable accommodation?
Though places of public accommodation, including businesses, reserve the right to refuse service to persons unable to comply with the requirement to wear a face-covering, they are required to provide a reasonable accommodation if it does not cause an undue hardship. Businesses are encouraged to inform their customers that there are exceptions to the requirement that all individuals must wear a mask. Individuals should either contact the business to request an accommodation ahead of their visit or do so upon arrival.
The individual and business should discuss a reasonable accommodation that will not cause the business an undue hardship or endanger other individuals. Some examples of accommodations that may be reasonable and not cause undue hardship are:
  1. Provide the individual an opportunity to order by telephone or online and provide pickup at a special register, curbside or deliver the items to the individual’s home.
  2. Arrange for an employee to bring the individual the items for purchase and allow the individual to pay at a special register, over the phone or at the front of the store.