COVID-19 updates, including vaccine information, for our patients and visitors Learn More


Wearing Is Caring: Keeping Each Other Safe During COVID-19

Along with social distancing and frequent hand washing, masks are a simple, yet effective, way to slow the spread of COVID-19.

To protect our patients and health care workers, we require the use of face coverings in all our facilities. It’s one of the steps that we can all take to keep our community healthy.

Masks must be worn at all times in public areas and in patient rooms at our hospitals, clinics and labs — even after you've been vaccinated until the pandemic lasts.

Visitors and patients may wear their own cloth mask if it is clean and well-fitting. Your nose, mouth and chin should be covered. If you don’t have a mask that fits properly, we will provide one for you.

How to Safely Put On and Remove Face Masks

  • Clean/sanitize your hands before putting on a mask and after touching it.
  • Place the mask on your face and pull the straps behind your ears.
  • Expand the mask so that it covers your mouth, nose and chin. It should be loose enough to allow you to breathe but still secure enough to stay in place.
  • Make sure you can talk easily and that the mask doesn’t irritate you, so you are not tempted to touch it or pull it out of place, which would reduce its effectiveness.
  • If you touch the front of the mask, immediately sanitize your hands.
  • To remove your used mask, hold only the ear loops/straps.
  • Dispose of the mask in a trash can, or store and wash it if it’s a reusable face covering. View more tips on wearing masks.

Tips for using hospital-provided surgical masks:

  • Surgical masks must be worn with the blue side facing out.
  • Pinch the metal edge of the mask so it presses gently on your nose bridge.
  • Crossing the ear loops to create a circle for your ears to go in may help the mask fit better and decrease fogging for those who wear glasses.

FAQs on Wearing Face Masks

Research shows masks can prevent the transmission of the virus and help save lives. You can show that you care about your health with a simple piece of fabric. Here are some frequently asked questions about when and how to properly use a face covering.

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What are the different types of masks?

A surgical mask, also called a medical mask, is a loose-fitting disposable mask that filters out large particles in the air.

An N95 mask, which is a type of respirator, offers more protection than a surgical mask does because it can filter out both large and small particles when the wearer inhales. They are worn by health care providers, who must be trained on proper fitting and usage in the workplace.

Because there’s a shortage of surgical and N95 masks, they should be reserved for health care providers.

Cloth masks are easy to find and can be washed and reused. Face coverings can be made of common materials like cotton. Masks can include homemade coverings, according to San Diego County Public Health Services.

You can buy or make your own mask. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has instructions on DIY cloth face coverings, including no-sew masks, and how to store and clean homemade masks.

When should I wear a mask?

Wear a mask when you’re in a public place where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as in grocery stores, or when you encounter other people. Masks are critical in slowing the spread of the virus, so it’s crucial we wear masks to protect ourselves and others. That’s why UC San Diego Health requires patients, visitors and staff in our facilities to wear masks along with taking other precautions such as social distancing and hand sanitation.

San Diego County health officials have mandated that people must wear masks in public settings when they're within 6 feet of other people. Businesses must require their employees and others to wear a face covering at the workplace.

The CDC recommends that anyone who leaves their home for any purpose should wear a facial covering — such as a gaiter or homemade mask — while maintaining social distancing.

Note: Even after we are vaccinated, we should all continue wearing masks for a while to keep ourselves and others safe, including many who haven't yet been or cannot be vaccinated. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines.

My mask keeps moving up toward my eyes; how do I fix this?

If this happens, pull on the bottom of the mask; do not put your fingers by your eyes to move it down. Always wash or sanitize your hands before placing your hands close to your eyes. 

How often do I need to wash a reusable mask?

Keep your reusable cloth mask or face cover clean by regularly washing it with soap and water by hand or in the washing machine. View detailed instructions on how to store and wash your mask.

Want to read more information about COVID-19?

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