As of April 7, 2020, we’ve updated this information about the use of cloth face masks based on information published by CDC and Washington State Department of Health.
Anytime you are in within six feet of someone, tiny droplets from talking, as well as from sneezing or coughing can land on nearby people and surfaces and then transfer to other people. Listed below are habits you may want to develop, including the use of face masks.
Clean your hands often. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
Stay home as much as possible. During stay-at-home orders, leave the home only for essential tasks, such as grocery shopping.
- Staying home is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick. This includes older adults, people with weakened immune systems (such as those undergoing cancer treatment), and those with chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, respiratory conditions (such as asthma), or people who have had a transplant.
- If someone in your household is sick, the entire household should remain quarantined.
Avoid close contact with other people. Put at least 6-feet of distance between yourself and other people.
Always cover coughs and sneezes using a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Throw used tissues in the trash and immediately wash or sanitize your hands.
Do not touch your eyes, nose, and mouth, especially when your hands are unwashed.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes doorknobs and handles, light switches, phones, tables and countertops, desks and keyboards, faucet handles, sinks and toilets. For more information, see CDC information about household cleaning and disinfection.
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Free and paid cloth face masks
As of June 26, 2020, Governor Jay Inslee announced a statewide mandatory face covering order in response to reports of increasing case counts and a potential overwhelming of the state’s health care system. Every Washingtonian must wear a facial covering when in a public space. This includes both indoor and outdoor public spaces. Washington’s strategy to restart the economy and get people back to work will only be successful if we act together and adopt measures to protect all of us until a vaccine or cure is developed. Until then, face masks are one of our best defenses to combat spread.
Cloth face masks are readily available at drug stores, grocery stores, and other retails outlets. Single use, disposable masks are usually about $1.00 each, often in a box of 10 more. Reusable, washable cloth face masks are typically in the range of $5-$10 each. Many colorful designs, construction types (cone or accordion, for example), and sizes are available. I’ve tried a few different ones and have a variety of colorful masks I enjoy wearing.
You can also sew masks; below we provide links to patterns and other information for sewing cloth face masks.
In the next couple sections, we’ll update events and other opportunities for acquiring face masks, some for free and others to support local businesses. Note that free face masks may be limited in supply, so distribution is sometimes restricted to residents in certain cities, counties, and age (youth and seniors) or low income groups.
Seattle and King County face mask resources
King County has purchased 25 million cloth and disposable masks in an effort to provide these critical supplies to our communities as we enter new phases of re-opening in the wake of COVID-19. To get these supplies to King County residents, mask distribution will be handled through Chambers of Commerce, King County Cities, County Councils, Community Organizations, Churches and Faith-Based Organizations, Transit Agencies, Food Banks, Senior Centers, and other key stakeholders. More info: https://www.kingcounty.gov/elected/executive/constantine/covid-response/get-masks.aspx
- Safeway locations in King County will give two free reusable masks per person in their household, up to 12 masks total, at the checkstand while supplies last. Beginning August 24, 2020, Safeway will help distribute 750,000 face masks provided by King County.
- King County residents can contact their County Councilmember to request masks. Each Council office has received an allotment of 24,000 cloth masks to distribute in their respective districts. Find your district: https://www.kingcounty.gov/council/councilmembers/find_district.aspx
- Cloth face masks are also being distributed via direct mail, social media, lunch programs, community centers, senior centers, food banks, and other methods and locations through King County. For a complete list, visit: https://www.kingcounty.gov/elected/executive/constantine/covid-response/get-masks.aspx
Simply Seattle will ship masks for $4.99/each in 35 designs–with many cool local-themed designs. (They’re calling them FREE, you just pay $4.99 shipping, but that’s pretty much what you can buy them for at retail locations. So we beg to differ.) Youth and larger adjustable sizes are available. More info: https://www.simplyseattle.com/collections/free-face-masks
Other Washington State face mask resources
Tacoma residents who need a cloth face mask can get them at convenient locations around the county. Masks are available specifically for people with income below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. Use their map to find pick up locations: https://www.tpchd.org/healthy-people/diseases/covid-19/masks
Washington State officials has a program earlier to ensure access to free, reusable cloth face coverings for all low-income Washingtonians. The state delivers the face coverings to local emergency management offices who then work with various community organizations and service providers to deliver them to individuals. People interested in where they can pick up a mask should contact county local emergency managers. More information about face coverings is available on the state’s COVID-19 website and the Lt. Governor’s office Mask Challenge page.
There are many small mask making businesses out there. Below is a list of members in Washington State BIPOC communities that are creating masks, which you can order online:
- HokaHe Trading Wacipi Wear. Order at Instagram handle @hokahe_trading
- Mac Fashions. Order at: https://squareup.com/store/macfashionhouse/
- Mama Hilda’s Masks. Order at: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdD22xvT1E6XjbUyN3sT0FPy_mdVJRekMqLjiCBPmIZ-p1eDg/viewform
- Jinda Lew Creations. Order at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/JindaLewCreations?ref=simple-shop-header-name&listing_id=796590376
- Refugee Artisan Initiative. Order at: https://refugeesarts.org/collections
Upcoming pop-up mask distribution events
- 9/3/2020 from 10-12:30 p.m at Redmond Ridge Park and Ride area 22845 Cedar Park Crest NE Redmond, WA 98053
- 9/10/2020 from 10-12:30 pm at Neely Mansion parking lot 12303 SE Auburn Black Diamond Rd. Auburn, WA 98002
- 9/10/2020 from 1:30 p.m. – 4 p.m. Enumclaw Expo Center Field House parking lot 1456 Roosevelt Ave. E. Enumclaw
- 9/17/2020 from 10-12:30 p.m. at Fall City Fire Station parking lot 4301 334th PL SE Fall City, WA 98024
- 9/24/2020 from 10-12:30 p.m. at Hobart Church 27524 SE 200th St. Maple Valley, WA 98038
How to use a cloth face mask
Do NOT wear medical grade or surgical masks. These are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and medical first responders. Medical masks should be reserved for healthcare providers who are on the front lines working to protect us all. Please avoid buying surgical, N95 respirator, or other medical masks.
The most important thing we can all do to control the spread of colds and flu is to stay home and practice social distancing.
When you are in public, the CDC recommends wearing cloth face covering. This includes while shopping in grocery stores and pharmacies, or any area where there has been significant community-based transmission, such as the Puget Sound region.
Guidance for the use of cloth face masks:
What is the purpose of face masks?
Cloth face makes are meant to slow the spread of the virus by limiting the release of potentially infectious particles into the air when someone speaks, coughs, or sneezes. Cloth face masks can help prevent you from unknowingly spreading the virus to others and touching your face with unwashed hands.
When should I wear a face mask?
CDC recommends all people 2 years of age and older wear a cloth face covering in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
COVID-19 can be spread by people who do not have symptoms and do not know that they are infected. That’s why it’s important for everyone to wear cloth face coverings in public settings and practice social distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from other people).
Cloth face coverings should NOT be worn by children under the age of 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
How should I use a face mask?
Before putting on a face mask, wash your hands with soap and water.
Grasp the bands or ties and place the mask over your mouth and nose. Use the ear loops or ties to secure the mask. It should fit snugly with no gaps between your face and the mask. Avoid touching the mask or your face.
While wearing a face mask, don’t pull the mask down and then pull it back up; you’ll might transfer something on the mask to your mouth or nasal passage. Keep the mask on securely until you’re back at home.
Remove the mask by grasping with the bands or ties. Be sure not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth while taking off the mask. Place the mask in the laundry basket. Then wash your hands with soap and water.
After each use, wash the cloth mask with detergent and hot water and dry it completely on a hot cycle. Inspect the mask for tears or holes, and throw it out if it’s damaged.
Who should NOT wear a face mask?
Cloth face masks should not be placed on young children under age 2, or anyone who has trouble breathing, or who is unable to remove the mask without assistance.
How to make a homemade cloth face mask
You can source materials at home; be sure to wash the mask materials before making masks. The best material to use is 100% cotton from sheets or pillowcases, t-shirts, or a bandanna, which are all very breathable. Silk and linen are also good choices, but much more expensive materials and slightly less breathable. Avoid materials like thick towels, cotton-poly blend fabrics, antimicrobial pillowcases, and vacuum cleaner bags–all these materials are less breathable and you will likely breathe through the sides of the mask rather than through the material, which is the goal.
Before handling mask making materials, wash your hands and practice good hand hygiene throughout the process. Sanitize work surfaces and tools with a disinfectant before making masks. Do not eat or drink while making masks.
Keep all mask materials away from animals and household members who may be sick or are not involved in mask making.
Simple DIY cloth face mask
The mask needs to enclose 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.
One of the simplest ways to make a homemade cloth face mask is to tie a bandanna around your face.
Another way to make a simple face mask is to fold a piece of cloth several times and use rubber bands over your ears to secure the cloth over your face. This simple method is demonstrated in the following YouTube video by Dr. Jerome Adams, U.S. Surgeon General.
Washington State Lt. Governor Mask-Making Instructions
To create these masks, you may either choose to use a sewing machine or hand-sew using needle and thread: https://www.ltgov.wa.gov/how-to-make-a-mask
More cloth face mask designs
There are MANY instruction sheets and videos for making cloth face masks. Here are a few using different designs for DIY homemade masks, including no sew and sewing methods:
- Sew and no sew instructions for cloth face covers from the CDC.
- Step-by-step instructions to sew a face mask from the New York Times.
- How to make a DIY reusable fabric face mask (with filter) on YouTube via link from CDC from face mask instructions on xobonmag.com.
- How to Sew a Fitted Cotton Face Mask on sweetredpoppy.com
- Cotton face mask with a pocket on Google Drive
Donating homemade masks
The Lt. Governor’s office has partnered with the United Ways of the Pacific Northwest and Serve Washington to organize a statewide homemade mask-making initiative to encourage the general public to make, wear, and donate cloth masks.
Many local manufacturing companies have stepped up to rapidly produce masks and face shields on a large scale for the healthcare community. We checked several major hospitals in the Seattle area, and none were accepting homemade masks. However, if you wish to make and donate homemade masks, use this directory to find an organization in need and contact them directly.
If you are a company willing to shift gears and re-purpose manufacturing operations, use this form to contact the Washington State coronavirus response.
Stay up-to-date on the current COVID-19 situation in Washington State.
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