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Mask Guide

Need-to-Know Info About Masks and COVID-19

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Mask FAQs 

What type of mask should I wear?

Avoid masks made from loosely-woven fabric—hold it up to a lamp to see if light passes through. Cloth masks should be constructed with multiple layers of breathable fabric, such as cotton.  Your mask should completely cover your nose and mouth and fit snugly against the sides of your face.

For extra protection, wear a disposable mask under your cloth face mask, also known as double-masking. When wearing two masks, tie knots in the ear loops of the disposable mask and tuck the cloth mask over the disposable mask to ensure a snug fit.

Masks with nose wire strips help prevent masks from slipping down or fogging up glasses. Adhesive nose strips are available to add to masks without nose strips.

When do I need to wear a mask?

You could spread COVID-19 to others if you are infected with the virus, even if you do not feel sick. It is recommended that everyone wear a mask when they have to go out in public; for example, to go the grocery store or to pick up other necessities. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before putting on your mask. Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. A mask is not a substitute for physical distancing.

Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance. 

Can I wear a face shield instead of a mask?

Evaluation of face shields for COVID prevention is ongoing, but their effectiveness is unknown at this time. For this reason, we do not recommend face shields. Please use a fabric mask composed of multiple layers or a disposable mask instead. 

How often should I wash my cloth mask?

Cloth masks should be washed after each use. Remove masks by the straps and wash your hands after handling or touching a used mask. Include your mask with your regular laundry and use the warmest appropriate water setting for the cloth used to make the mask. Dry your mask in the dryer or hang to dry in direct sunlight. 

How often should I replace my disposable mask?

Disposable masks should be thrown away after one wear.

Does wearing a mask mean I'm breathing in carbon dioxide instead of oxygen?

Wearing a mask does not raise the carbon dioxide (CO2) level in the air you breathe. 

Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide are very small particles, so they can easily pass through a face mask, allowing you to breathe normally while wearing one. 

What type of masks should I avoid?

Masks with exhalation valves or vents are not as effective. The holes in the material may allow your respiratory droplets to escape and reach others. Use cloth masks or disposable medical procedure masks instead. 

I’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19. Do I still need to wear a mask? 

The CDC now recommends that fully vaccinated people continue wearing masks in indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission.

Warehouse worker with mask

CDC Guidelines

Since April 3, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended the use of cloth face coverings. Masks, when worn properly, may help reduce the spread of the virus. They are not intended to replace physical distancing and handwashing recommendations which people should continue to use to protect themselves.

See Latest CDC Mask Guidelines

Barista with coffee wearing mask

Other DHEC Guides

Physical Distancing

Find out best practices around physical distancing.

Doctor with mask

Other DHEC Guides


Find out when and how to get tested for COVID-19.

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Questions about masking? DHEC has answers! Check out their mask guide at for answers to common questions. 

I've been vaccinated. Do I still need to wear a mask?How often should I wash my mask?Are you wearing your mask correctly?

Wearing a mask does not increase the level of CO2 you breathe.If you're wearing this type of mask, you're doing it wrong.Some masks work better than others. Know what to look for.

After vaccination for COVID-19, you do NOT need to wear a mask in public. Recent CDC guidance suggests that vaccinated people don't need to wear a mask, indoors or outside, and can resume many normal activities.
I've been vaccinated for COVID-19. Do I still need to avoid gatherings? No. Once you have been vaccinated, it's safe to resume normal activities, like gathering inside with friends. If you are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, you can resume normal activities. Once you've been vaccinated, you can safely go without a mask in indoor and outdoor
I've been fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Can I socialize indoors? Yes. You can socialize indoors without a mask safely, according to recent guidance from the CDC. Vaccines provide good protection against new COVID variants. Recent research shows that vaccines provide good protection against new variants of COVID-19. If you are vaccinated, you can resume indoor and outdoor activities without a mask.

Proper Face Mask Usage

Video Tips

To help protect others from COVID-19, DHEC recommends everyone wear a mask or cloth face covering.