New Victorian Mask Regulations & How to Wear One Effectively
Since the spread of COVID-19 in across the world, mask regulations have become increasingly common as a way to keep us all safe.
What kind of mask can be worn to meet regulations?
The term ‘face mask’ includes cloth masks and single-use face masks (commonly called surgical masks). Both masks are suitable for use to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Cloth masks are any nose and mouth covering made of washable fabric. The official recommendation from the government and health officials is to wear a cloth mask made of three layers of a mix of breathable fabrics to ensure adequate protection. It does not need to be surgical quality to be effective.
Surgical masks are single-use only so can’t be washed and used again.
There are other types of masks and respirators (such as P2 or N95). These are not recommended for use in the community and not advised to be used outside of healthcare or specific industries under health advice.
Can I wear a scarf or bandana instead?
A scarf or bandana does not offer the same amount of protection as well-fitted face masks, however the advice from Daniel Andrews and health officials at this time is that it’s “better than nothing”.
Properly constructed cloth masks are made from at least three layers of materials, including a water-resistant outer layer. Please keep these three-layers in mind if you are DIY-ing a mask at home.
Can I wear a face shield instead?
Face shields may be easier to wear for some individuals. If face shields are used, ensure they are properly designed to cover the sides of the face and below the chin. Reusable face shields should be cleaned and disinfected after each use. Disposable face shields should only be worn for single use.
Where to get face masks:
You can purchase cloth masks or surgical masks from retail outlets including chemists, hardware stores and other shops or you can follow the Victorian Government directions to make your own cloth mask.
How to properly wear a face masks to adhere to regulations (and keep people safe):
A cloth mask should fit securely around the face, specifically covering the nose and the mouth areas. The mask should fit snugly on your face and be secured by ties at the back of your head or ear loops. If you are using a mask with ear loops, you can use a plastic clip or tie to join the ends together at the back of your head to make sure it fits snugly on your face.
Make sure that your mask does not have holes or a valve. This can result in breathing out the virus if you have coronavirus (COVID-19).
Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or use hand sanitiser that is made up of over 60% alcohol before putting it on and after taking it off. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth at all times and store used face masks in a plastic bag until you have an opportunity to wash them.
Can I re-use my cloth mask?
A cloth mask can be washed and re-used. It is a good idea to have at least two, so you always have a clean one available.
When should I wash my cloth mask?
A cloth mask should be washed each day after use. However, if during the day your mask is visibly dirty or wet, do not continue wearing your mask; the mask needs to be washed. You can carry a spare clean mask in a ziplock bag with you.
Re-using a cloth mask without washing is risky because it can become contaminated or
may not be as effective in protecting you.
When do I need to replace my cloth mask:
Each cloth mask will be constructed differently, therefore there is no specific ‘shelf life’ of a cloth mask. However, the following are signs that your cloth mask may no longer be offering you the same level of protection it once was:
- your cloth mask does not fit snugly on your face (e.g. you can feel your breath coming out of the sides of the mask)
- your cloth mask keeps falling off or sliding down
- there are holes in your cloth mask
- you need to keep adjusting your cloth mask
- the material has started to wear thin or fray.
Surgical mask (single use)
- Before putting on the mask, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or use a hand sanitiser that is made up of over 60% alcohol.
- Check for defects in the mask, such as tears or broken loops.
- Position the coloured side of the mask outward.
- If present, make sure the metallic strip is at the top of the mask and positioned against the bridge of your nose. Mould the bendable metallic upper strip to the shape of your nose by pinching and pressing down on it with your fingers.
- Pull the bottom of the mask over your mouth and chin.
- Be sure the mask fits snugly.
- Don’t touch the mask once in position.
- If the mask gets soiled or damp, replace it with a new one.
Can I re-use my surgical mask?
No! Single use masks are for single-use only and should be disposed of responsibly in the rubbish bin.
Carry a paper bag or zip lock bag with you to carry clean masks and keep them clean.
What’s the best way to take off a face mask?
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser containing at least 60% alcohol.
- Don’t touch the front of the mask or your face.
- Carefully remove your mask by grasping the ear loops or untying the ties. For masks with a pair of ties, unfasten the bottom one first, then the top one.
- If your mask has filters, remove them and throw them away. Fold the mask and put it directly into the laundry or into a disposable or washable bag for laundering. Single use surgical masks should be disposed of responsibly.
- Clean your hands again.
When is it safe to take my face mask off?
You can remove it outside, once you are away from other people, or in your car on your way home.
If it is a cloth mask, don’t forget to bring your cloth mask inside to be cleaned. If you wait to take your cloth mask off until you have returned home, it may be easier to put it directly into the laundry.
It is NOT safe to take off your mask while talking to people! Make sure you also continue to keep a 1.5m distance between you and other people, even if you are wearing a mask.
How do face masks help stop the spread of COVID-19?
Face mask regulations have been recommended around the world for use by the community to reduce transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Face masks are helpful in containing droplets when people cough, reducing the likelihood of spreading the virus. For the community, both cloth masks and surgical masks are effective in reducing the transmission of COVID-19.
Your best protection is still to keep 1.5 metres apart from other people, to wash your hands thoroughly and regularly, and cough and sneeze into a tissue or your elbow.
Mask-wearing tips for people who wear glasses:
- Use a mask with a nose bridge. If your mask tightly hugs the bridge of your nose and across the top of your cheeks, it will catch condensation before it reaches your glasses.
- Place medical tape or band-aids along the edge of your mask to seal the edge against your cheek and then place your glasses on top.
- Try washing your glasses in soapy water or shampoo and air-drying. This creates a film on the lenses that prevents fogging.
- Place a folded tissue under your mask at the bridge of your nose to absorb escaping moisture.
- If you are finding discomfort from having both your glasses and your mask hooked over your ears, you can use hair-ties, rubber bands or elastic tied to the mask loops to secure the mask across the back of your head instead of over your ears.
Mask-wearing tips for deaf and hard of hearing people:
- There are some masks designed specifically with a clear window for lip-reading. You can DIY these or purchase them online.
- A deaf or hard of hearing person may try to communicate with you using their phone by typing in their notes app, or using text to speech. Make sure you reciprocate in the same manner using your own phone, and be patient with the process.
- Let them take the lead and communicate their needs with you. Listen to the person as they advise how to communicate best with them.
Click here to see current mask regulations and other restrictions in Victoria.