To Mask or Not to Mask?

Should you wear a facemask?

Dr. Warren Wong

Dr. Warren


The more you hear and read about masks, the more confusing it sounds. It has been confusing for a while. The most well-known doctor in the United States, Anthony Fauci, does not wear a mask when he stands next to the President. Meanwhile, on TV we see people in China all wearing masks.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is recommending that people wear masks when they go out in public. The following is a why, who, what, where, when and how of wearing a mask.


One purpose of a facemask is to help protect you from getting COVID-19 from someone else. The other is to keep you from giving COVID-19 to someone else.  This is especially important because you can spread the disease when you don’t know you have it.

If you feel sick with a “cold” or “flu”, call the doctor or a COVID-19 Hotline right away. Simply wearing a mask when you feel sick is not enough to keep you from making someone else sick.

WHO should wear a mask?

It is especially important to wear a mask when:

  • COVID-19 is a major problem in your community.
  • You have contact with people frequently. For instance, if you are a grocery clerk.
  • You come into contact with people who are chronically ill or elderly.
  • You yourself are chronically ill or elderly.

It is difficult and not always necessary to keep a mask on people who are frail and confused. Even in hospital settings patients seldom wear masks. Instead, staff and caregivers wear masks.

WHAT kind of mask should you use?

Masks vary in the amount of protection provided. Most experts agree that any mask is better than no mask. Because there is a shortage of masks, use the mask that is appropriate for you:

  • A fabric mask: Use this if you are in the general public for activities such as going to the store or for short interactions with other people.
  • A medical/surgical/ “doctors” mask: Use this if you are seeing people throughout the day or if you are providing hands-on caregiving.
  • A “N95” mask: Use this if you are in contact with a person who may have COVID-19 or other contagious flu-like disease.  These masks are currently in very short supply and should only be used when needed.
  • Face Shields are not meant for use outside healthcare settings and are only required under special circumstances.

WHERE should you use a mask?  

Generally, you do not need to use a mask at home unless you are providing hands-on care to another person or you are having visitors. Use the mask outside the house, especially wherever people are close by.

WHEN should you use a mask?

Wear your mask when you are around people you don’t live with. Also wear a mask when you are providing hands-on care to another person.

Most people do not need to wear a mask all day long. You cannot wear a mask and eat. If you need to take it off outside, take it off when you are not around other people.

HOW to wear a mask?

      • Wash your hands with soap and water before putting on or taking off a mask.
      • Avoid touching your face when putting on or taking off a mask.
      • Avoid touching your mask, adjusting it and taking it off frequently.
      • Do NOT wear it below your nose and do NOT take it off to talk.
      • Do NOT get confused and wear a mask inside/out. This is particularly likely with a surgical mask.

Remember that wearing a mask does not provide total protection: Practicing social distancing and frequent handwashing are essential.

Cleaning your mask:

A cloth mask should be washed daily with soap and water, then dried, after it is used.

Surgical/medical masks are not meant to be washed or reused. Washing can degrade them.  Surgical/medical masks should not be used for more than a day at most.

Making fabric masks:

This website is recommended for instructions on how to make a mask.
There is a shortage of elastic and this site shows how to make masks without using elastic.

There is a great need for masks. In the weeks ahead, serious shortages can occur not only in hospitals and clinics but also in nursing homes and senior living communities. Consider contributing there. In addition, give masks to people who need them.

I’ll continue to send out messages. Please feel free to email me with general questions.


Warmest Aloha,

Dr. Warren

P.S. I’m here to support you. Be connected, stay strong.

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