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Are homemade face masks effective against coronavirus? Here's what experts say

The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) — Bailey Aldridge The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

March 24--Homemade face masks have become a popular DIY craft as people look for ways to quell boredom while stuck at home and for ways to help out amid the coronavirus pandemic. But they may not be as effective as you think.

The COVID-19 crisis has left face masks in short supply across the U.S. Some people have taken to sewing their own, whether they're to donate to a local hospital or to wear themselves, and videos and posts with instructions on how to make them have been circulating on social media.

But do they actually work to protect against coronavirus infection? Here's what experts say.

In general, surgical masks, including those that are homemade, are not as effective at protecting against the virus as N95 face masks or respirators, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

N95 masks reduce exposure to large droplets of harmful fluids as well as small particles and aerosols, the CDC says. Surgical masks just protect against larger droplets, splashes or sprays. They also protects others from the "respiratory emissions" from the person wearing it.

Surgical masks have a loose fit, while N95 masks fit tightly on the face.

Additionally, the respirators filter out 95 percent of particles in the air, according to the CDC.

Michael Doyle, an Army National Guard commander of a COVID-19 testing site, told USA Today that the only way to prevent inhaling the virus is the N95 mask.

"The DIY masks, albeit creative, are only to serve as a reminder for us to not touch our face," he told USA Today.

The CDC says homemade masks should be used by health care workers as a "last resort" and are not considered personal protective equipment.

Homemade masks should be used along with a "face shield" to cover the front and sides of the face, the CDC says.

Health officials have emphasized that people who are healthy and not working in health care should not wear any face masks. They can increase the risk of being infected.

Instead, the CDC recommends staying at least 6 feet away from anyone who is sick and taking other common sense precautions to avoid being infected.

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