Face masks are with us almost everywhere right now. We’re all covering up our faces in stores, restaurants and whenever we’re in crowded spaces. With lots of grey areas in our new face mask reality, there’s a few points of etiquette you might not think about.
Face Mask Etiquette You Might Not Think About
Based on current guidelines from the CDC and other medical experts, wearing a face mask is one of the best options to prevent the spread of germs right now. Yes, this is a change from the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is based on new information gained from our ongoing exposure to this virus.
However, the when and where to wear a mask is something that not everyone can agree on 100% of the time. To be fair, there are a lot of situations where the etiquette is not quite clear.
Is There a Need to Wear a Mask Whenever I’m Outside?
According to CDC guidelines, face masks should be worn outside if you cannot maintain at least six feet distance between yourself and others.
Basically, if you’re able to be far apart from others, you’ve got the green light to remove your mask. However, there are some situations where you should mask-up.
A prime example is passing others in close quarters, like on the sidewalk or other path. If you can move out of the way onto the grass or step onto the street, it might be wise to pull your mask on.
This was a prime concern, according to those interviewed by WBUR in Boston. Several parents were taken back by runners or other walkers who “zipped by” without wearing a mask.
Do I Need a Mask While Exercising?
Exercising while masked, or not, is a point of contention. If you’re running, you are likely passing walkers at a faster rate of speed, which means you’re not spending a ton of time sharing the same space.
However, you’re also sweating and breathing hard, leaving airborne droplets in your wake.
While outside spaces and solo exercise might mean you can pass on the mask, that’s not the case if you’re going to be within 6-12 feet of others at any time, according to an NPR article.
When you’re working out inside, such as in a gym, the calculations are different. Current data suggests that possibly infectious droplets linger longer indoors. Many gyms, and some states or counties, are also requiring patrons to be masked when not using cardio equipment.
Generally, carry your mask with you if you’re going to be exercising, inside or outdoors. Be prepared to mask-up if passing within 6 feet of others or as your fitness center requires.
Should I Wear a Mask When at a Socially Distant Gathering?
Probably? This gets tricky, depending on how your get together is set up. If you’re spaced properly and not sharing anything at all, you could possibly unmask and be okay.
However, if you’re planning in sharing food or using a shared bathroom, a mask is likely a good idea. Plan to mask up when you visit the potluck table or if you go inside to use the restroom.
Can I Call Out Someone for Not Wearing a Mask?
How well do you know this person? If it’s a close friend or family member, you could say something. Definitely say something if you see them doing risky behavior that could endanger others.
If you’re out in public and the person in question is a complete stranger, it’s more complicated. First, it’s awkward and can come off as judgmental. Plus, you don’t know if there are underlying health reasons behind their actions.
One step you can safely take is to approach a store employee and ask about their mask policy. This is a great way to handle your concerns, especially if you observe potentially unsafe behavior like frequent coughing.
What About On-Base Mask Wearing?
In early April the DOD issued a recommendation that all personnel wear face masks when unable to maintain 6 feet of space between others.
“The Department of Defense urges individuals on DOD property, installations and facilities to wear cloth face coverings when a 6-foot social distance cannot be maintained to help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Navy Cmdr. (Dr.) Cameron J.L. Nelson, chief of DHA’s occupational medicine branch, said”
This guidance, issued on April 5, follows information published by the CDC.
Each military service has issued guidance about the specific face masks troops are allowed to wear and when they must be worn. Generally, masks should be “conservative” on color and free of offensive slogans, non-military patterns and drug use. In addition, they should not be full-face covers, though balaclavas pulled up over the nose and mouth are generally allowed.
Overall the DOD recommends following the CDC guidelines for wearing face masks:
- Wear masks indoors
- Wear masks outdoors when unable to physically distance yourself from others
- Wear masks when exercising indoors or when passing within 10-12 feet of others while outside