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Now We Need to Wear Masks. Here’s How to Get (Or Make) Them

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommend that you wear a cloth covering on your face if you must go out. Don't have a face mask? Here's how to buy or make one

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All of a sudden, the one thing that we all need -- and we didn't know to stock up on -- is cloth face masks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Friday that Americans wear masks if they must go out in public during the new coronavirus pandemic.

This doesn't mean that people should wear medical-grade masks that should be reserved for health care workers, including disposable N95 masks, surgical masks or "procedural" masks. We're talking fabric masks or scarves, similar to what have been used for years in some other countries.

There are countless videos online that can help you learn to make your own cloth face mask to protect against the coronavirus, but there’s a lot more to it than you might think. We’ll walk you through how to make an easy no-sew mask and what you need to know about using a mask to stay safe.

And this is not in any way a substitute for practicing social distancing or washing hands properly. But with those two important steps, face masks might help limit transmission of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Wearing a mask protects you from infected people -- but it also protects others in case you are infected. Some who are infected with the coronavirus don't know it.

A few cities and states are ahead of the CDC. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced at a press conference Thursday that he wanted New Yorkers to start wearing face coverings.

And Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said early Friday afternoon he wanted the state's residents to wear masks in public starting now.

"Today, I am asking all Pennsylvanians to wear masks, any time you leave your house," Wolf said Friday. "Masks help prevent people from sharing illnesses."

But wearing masks is easier ordered than done.

Face masks are in suddenly short supply from internet sellers, with many sold out or not available to ship for weeks. Some drug stores, including CVS, are not selling disposable masks online.

So what to do? Here are some options:

Support a crafter

On Friday, several Etsy stores were still selling handmade masks for relatively inexpensive prices and with reasonable shipping times (about five business days for some stores without paying for rush shipping).

Better hurry up and order, though.

Or try your local Facebook and Nextdoor groups, where some people are offering to sew masks, particularly for first responders -- including this Amish group in Lancaster County.

Find a 3-D printer

Obviously only a few people have access to a 3-D printer, but those that do can print a face mask. Rowan University in New Jersey has developed a pattern for a 3D-printed face mask; you can download it here.

Make your own - with or without sewing

If you can sew, now is the time. The New York Times has a printable tutorial for making a face mask here.

Or you can make a face mask out of old clothing you already have.

Scarves, T-shirts, shorts -- even bras -- can be repurposed. This video gives you step by step directions:

Remember, this doesn't have to be complicated. The goal is to cover your face. So if you want to use a securely tied scarf or bandanna, just do that.

If nothing else, covering up will remind us all that we have a part to play in a worldwide pandemic -- one as simple as covering up.

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