MASK UP: Protect yourself and others by “Masking Up” properly

November 12, 2020

By Sandra Millon Underwood
Professor, UW-Milwaukee School of Nursing

By now we’ve all gotten the message that wearing masks during the coronavirus pandemic is important, but it’s also important to ‘mask up’ correctly so that you are properly protected and you are protecting those around you.

While scientists and the medical community continue to learn about the effects of the coronavirus, we do know that there is mounting evidence to support that wearing masks helps protect the transmission of this virus. Moreover, recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that wearing a mask reduces 95 percent of the droplets that can be carried as far as six feet in the air.

Here are CDC recommendations for wearing masks:

• Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth to help protect others in case you’re infected with COVID-19 but don’t have symptoms
• Wear a mask in public settings when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when it may be difficult for you to stay six feet apart
• Masks should be worn by all vendors in the mall, stores/markets, restaurants, barber shops, and salons
• Masks should be worn by everyone gathered for religious services
• Wear a mask correctly for maximum protection

There are many low-cost, no-cost options for masking up. And, whether they are disposable paper masks or reusable cotton masks, just remember that masks should consist of two or more layers of fabric to stop the spread of COVID-19. You can find expensive masks as many of the local dollar stores or use alternatives such as bandannas and gaiter scarves. The important thing to remember is that any kind of mask—properly worn—is better than no mask at all.

Here’s how to properly wear yours (see illustration below):

• Put it over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin
• Try to fit it snugly against the sides of your face
• Make sure you can breathe easily

We asked a few community leaders why they wear masks. Here is what they had to say.

• Doris Cohn, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Chapter President—“I wear a mask to protect others. And, I refuse to patronage stores, kiosks, restaurants and other places that do not require masks. We are all in this together!”
• Cavalier (‘Chevy’) Johnson, Milwaukee Common Council President – “It’s important to wear a mask not just to protect yourself – it’s important to wear a mask to protect everyone around you. When we all wear masks, we’re not just protecting essential workers from possible COVID-19 infection, we’re also protecting our grandparents, we’re protecting our children, we’re protecting our economy, and we’re protecting our community.”
• Brigitte Hyler Richerson, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Chapter President –“I wear a mask because it’s the least I can do to make a difference. It’s a simple step we can all take to help get rid of the coronavirus. People need to stop politicizing wearing masks, and care more about each other!”

Here are a few guidelines for putting on and taking off a cloth mask:

• Wash or sanitize your hands before and after putting on and taking off your mask.
• Place your mask over your mouth and nose, using your chin as an anchor.
• Tie it behind your head or use ear loops and make sure the mask is snug.
• Don’t touch your mask while wearing it.
• If you accidentally touch your mask, wash or sanitize your hands.
• If your mask becomes wet or dirty, switch to a clean one. Put the used mask in a sealable bag until you can wash it.
• Remove the mask by untying it or lifting off the ear loops without touching the front of the mask or your face.
• Wash your hands immediately after removing your mask.
• Regularly wash your mask with soap and water by hand or in the washing machine. It’s fine to launder it with other clothes.

And finally, here are a few mask precautions:

• Don’t put masks on anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious or otherwise unable to remove the mask without help.
• Don’t put masks on children under two years of age.
• Don’t use face masks as a substitute for social distancing.

Remember, you can help keep your loved ones and others safe by regularly practicing these three simple things:

1) wear a mask (properly),
2) practice social distancing (six feet between you and others (e.g., the length of two adults—arms spread on either side without touching, as illustrated above) whenever you are in public, and
3) wash your hands often.

Be safe and stay healthy!

The Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) Program is a culturally-tailored program that aims to provide education, resources to secure healthy foods, and active living supports for adults at-risk for developing lifestyle-related diseases; and, to empower adults to make changes in their physical and social environment to improve nutrition and physical activity. ‘Like’ their Facebook page that’s full of videos of healthy recipes and low-cost, no-cost exercise.


The CDC has a YouTube video demonstrating how to make your own mask. To learn more, visit

Free masks are available at the following locations:

• Milwaukee Health Department offices, 841 N. Broadway, 286-3521
• Keenan Sexual Health Clinic at 3200 N. 36th St., 286-8840
• Northwest Health Center at 7630 W. Mill Road, 286- 8830
• Southside Health Center at 1639 S. 23rd St., 286-8620
• The Milwaukee Times Newspaper, 1938 N. Martin Luther King Dr. (limited availability)

Be Safe & Stay Healthy!