Masks Recommended to Slow Spread of COVID-19, Not a Substitute for Staying Home, Handwashing

American Lung Association calls on Americans to follow guidance to wear non-medical, cloth masks, reserve critical PPE and N95 respirators for front-line medical workers

In light of a new guidance from the Administration recommending that everyone should voluntarily wear non-medical, cloth masks in public, even if they are not exhibiting symptoms, the American Lung Association Chief Medical Officer Albert Rizzo, M.D., issued the following statement:

“This additional step to help mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 illness will be critical to slow the spread of the disease. Recently, we have learned that up to one in four individuals infected with COVID-19 might have no symptoms or very mild symptoms, and unknowingly spreading the virus in respiratory droplets as they sneeze, cough or even breathe or talk. Not intended to protect the wearer, but to protect against this unintended transmission, the Administration has asked that the public begin using some type of face covering or barrier while in public settings such as grocery stores, even if they do not show symptoms, in case you are a carrier of the virus.

“The wearing of the masks by all individuals can give some degree of barrier protection from respiratory droplets that are coughed or sneezed around them. Early reports show that the virus can live in droplets in the air for up to one to three hours after an infected individual has left an area. Covering your face will help prevent these droplets from getting into the air and infecting others.

“We strongly recommend that everyone stay home and wash your hands frequently. If you must venture out, avoid social gatherings and stay at least six feet away from others and wear a face covering. In no way should covering your face change or decrease the importance of following these public health recommendations, including staying home as much as possible. 

“The American Lung Association encourages everyone to follow this guidance and wear some type of face covering while in public, such as a homemade mask, bandana or scarf, but reserve the limited supply of personal protect equipment (PPE), surgical masks and N95 respirators, for front-line medical works.

“Whether a homemade mask from a pattern found online or even a bandana or scarf, wearing some type of face shield may be helpful to slow the spread of the disease and protect those who are more vulnerable to severe illness from the disease, including older adults, and people of any age with lung disease, heart disease, who are immunocompromised, or those who smoke.

“Slowing the spread of the COVID-19 disease will save lives, and the American Lung Association calls on everyone to do their part to protect their health as well as the health of the most vulnerable.”

More information on COVID-19 can be found at or by calling the Lung HelpLine (1-800-LUNGUSA) or emailing to reach knowledgeable registered nurses and certified respiratory therapists who are ready to answer questions about COVID-19 and the impact on lung health.

For media seeking to schedule a media interview with a lung health expert on COVID-19, contact Stephanie Goldina at the American Lung Association at 312-801-7629 or [email protected].

For more information, contact:

Elizabeth Cook
[email protected]

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