Bad news for all the Michaels and Jasons out there this year: Unfortunately, your Halloween costume mask doesn’t actually qualify as an effective COVID-19 face mask, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
You probably already know by now that, along with social distancing and frequent hand washing, wearing a face mask is one effective way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. That’s because experts believe the coronavirus spreads mainly through respiratory droplets that people with the infection expel when talking, yelling, coughing, or sneezing. Other people can then pick up the infection when they inhale those droplets (which contain viral particles) or if the droplets land in their nose, eyes, or mouth.
The cloth face masks that most of us wear these days largely protect other people from being exposed to our respiratory droplets by catching the droplets from our mouths and noses, which is especially important because we know people can still spread COVID-19 even if they don’t have noticeable symptoms. Some types of masks, particularly N95 masks worn by health care professionals, also protect the wearer from inhaling droplets containing viral particles. Research suggests that the most effective cloth masks are made out of more than one layer of fabric, which could include things like cotton or polypropylene. But a Halloween costume mask, especially one that has a hole or piece of mesh over the mouth, isn’t likely to provide much protection for you or others.
That’s why the CDC has a few specific recommendations around masks this Halloween season. Yes, you do need to wear a face mask in public in order to protect yourself and others from the coronavirus. But “a costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask,” the CDC says. And, no, you should not wear a real face mask underneath your costume mask because that could make it difficult to breathe.
Instead, the CDC recommends making your face mask part of your costume. Start with the mask and plan your costume around it! If you’re in need of inspiration, check out this list of face masks that could easily be worn as part of a Halloween costume or might just add a spooky vibe to your outfit. This is one of many changes we’re all adjusting to in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s necessary to keep you and your community as safe as possible.