Guidance on the Use of Face Coverings

The face covering can be a cloth face mask, scarf, or bandana that covers your mouth and nose. Please save medical masks, including N95s, for our healthcare workers and first responders.

  • All household members are encouraged to wear a face covering as soon as one household member becomes sick.
  • Wearing a face covering can help reduce the spread of disease, especially from people who are sick and do not know it yet.

For more information on face coverings, see CDC Recommendations for Cloth Face Covers.

Contestando Sus Preguntas Sobre El COVID-19: Máscara

 


When to wear a face covering

All Chicagoans are required to wear a face covering when they leave their home and they cannot maintain 6 feet of physical distance between themselves and others. Examples include:

  • during interactions with others where close contact is unavoidable
  • shopping at grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retail businesses
  • visiting any establishment which requires a face covering to enter
  • picking up food from the drive thru or curbside
  • walking through apartment and business lobbies and in elevators
  • walking on sidewalks and in parks and other shared spaces when 6 feet of social distancing is not possible
  • taking public transportation
  • visiting a health care provider

People who are sick should wear a face covering while at home, particularly if they need to be within 6 feet of others who share their home. People who are sick and who need to leave home, such as to get urgent medical care, should always wear a face covering.


A face covering can be a scarf, a bandana or cloth mask that covers your mouth and nose. Face coverings should go over your nose to under your chin. Examples can be found on the CDC website.

Any individual over age 2 who is medically able to tolerate a mask or face covering shall be required to cover his or her nose and mouth with a mask or face covering when in a public place (either indoors or outdoors) and unable to maintain at least a 6-foot social distance from others. All mandates to wear masks or face coverings apply only to these individuals, in situations where social distancing cannot be maintained. 

Face coverings should not be placed on children younger than 2 years of age, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance.

If you’re not sick and no one else in your home is sick, you don’t need to wear a face covering while at home. Other situations that don’t require a face covering include running or walking in your neighborhood (as long as 6-feet social distancing can be maintained), mowing the lawn, performing spring yard cleanup, gardening, driveway car washing, and other outdoor activities on your own property.

Yes. Wearing face coverings is an additional public health measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19. CDPH still recommends you stay at least 6 feet away from other people (social distancing), frequent hand cleaning, and other everyday preventive actions. This is especially important if someone is infected but does not have symptoms.

In-home transmission of COVID-19 is very common. Wearing a face covering inside the home can reduce the chance of in-home transmission. Review additional in-home precautions on the CDPH website.

All Chicagoans are required to wear a face covering when they must leave their home and they either cannot maintain 6 feet of physical distance between themselves and others. Examples include:

  • during interactions with others where close contact is unavoidable
  • shopping at grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retail businesses
  • visiting any establishment which requires a face covering to enter
  • picking up food from the drive thru or curbside
  • walking through apartment and business lobbies and in elevators
  • walking on sidewalks and in parks and other shared spaces when 6 feet of social distancing is not possible
  • taking public transportation
  • visiting a health care provider

Restaurant patrons must wear a mask during any interaction with waitstaff, food service workers and other employees at bars and restaurants. Face coverings must be worn when patrons are approached and served by staff, including but not limited to when employees take patrons orders, deliver food and beverages, and service tables. This guidance will also apply to other facilities with food services areas that are currently subject to the Restore Illinois guidance, such as indoor recreational facilities, museums and entertainment venues.

As long as you maintain at least 6 feet from others, you do not need to wear a face covering. People should only do exercise that enables them to keep physical distance from others. Walking, running, and biking are good examples of activities that do not require shared equipment or close contact with others.

If you are sick you should always wear a face covering. If you are not sick, you should wear a face covering when you need to leave home and might be within 6 feet of others, especially for more than 10 minutes.

Essential workers should also wear a face covering at work when they cannot maintain at least 6 feet of distance between themselves and others. Face coverings do not replace social distancing and careful hand hygiene.

People who are sick should wear a face covering while at home, particularly if they need to be within 6 feet of others who share their home. People who are sick and who need to leave home, such as to get urgent medical care, should always wear a face covering.

If you are sick, by law in Chicago, you should not be outside your home at all unless you are seeking essential medical care. Others should bring you basic necessities such as medicine or food. If you are leaving your home to seek medical care, you should always wear a face covering. 

All household members are encouraged to wear a face covering as soon as one household member becomes sick. Follow other CDPH guidance for in-home precautions

We recommend you continue precautions even after you are better. This includes wearing a face covering when you are outside your home and cannot maintain at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and others.

Whether you use cotton fabrics, paper-based shop towels, or other materials, try to strike a balance between the materials you already have at home, how easy it will be to breathe while wearing the face covering for extended periods away from home, and whether or not you would prefer to craft a new face covering every day (paper) or wash and reuse your face covering(s).

There are a number of online resources with instructions for making homemade face coverings from cloth fabric or paper. See CDC DIY Cloth Face Coverings

Cloth face coverings should:

  • cover your nose and mouth down to your chin
  • fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • be secured with ties or ear loops
  • include multiple layers of fabric
  • allow for breathing without restriction
  • be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape

Masks with exhalation valves or vents are not recommended. Masks with one-way valves or vents allow air to be exhaled through a hole in the material, which can result in expelled respiratory droplets that can reach others. This type of mask does not prevent the person wearing the mask from transmitting COVID-19 to others.

N95 respirators should be reserved for healthcare workers or other medical first responders. They need masks to stay healthy and to care for the most critically ill. Healthcare workers cannot keep distance from others, avoid sick people, or avoid contact with others’ bodily fluid such as saliva, so it is essential that we reserve medical masks for them.

Remove your face covering using the ties, elastic or ear loops and avoid touching the actual face covering. You should be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth when removing your face covering. Wash your hands immediately after removing.

how to take off a mask

It’s a good idea to wash your cloth face covering at least daily. Place your used cloth face covering in a bag or bin away from small children or pets until they can be laundered with detergent and dried on a hot cycle. The face covering should be fully dry before using. People should have a couple of face coverings so they can rotate for washing.

If you need to remove and reuse your face covering before washing, consider putting it in a plastic or paper bag (not your backpack or purse) and be mindful not to put the face covering where others can touch it or where it will contaminate shared surfaces. Wash your hands immediately after putting it back on and avoid touching your face.

Paper-based masks, like those crafted from shop towels, should be thrown out after each use.

A face shield is not a substitute for a face covering. A face shield is primarily used for eye protection for the person wearing it. At this time, it is not known what level of protection a face shield provides to people nearby from the spray of respiratory droplets from the wearer.

However, wearing a face covering may not be feasible in every situation for some people for example, people who are deaf or hard of hearing—or those who care for or interact with a person who is hearing impaired. Here are some considerations for individuals who must wear a face shield instead of a face covering:

  • face shields should wrap around the sides of the wearer’s face and extend below the chin.
  • hooded face shields provide better protection
  • face shield wearers should wash their hands before and after removing the face shield and avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth when removing it
  • disposable face shields should only be worn for a single use and disposed of according to manufacturer instructions
  • reusable face shields should be cleaned and disinfected after each use according to manufacturer instructions or by following CDC face shield cleaning instructions
  • plastic face shields for newborns and infants are NOT recommended.

Any business, service, facility or organization open to the public or employees shall require employees, customers, and other individuals on the premises to cover their nose and mouth with a face covering when on premises. This requirement also applies to all schools and day care facilities. For more information, see IDPH’s  Control of Communicable Diseases Code (77 IAC 690; 44 Ill Reg 13807).

Any business, service, facility or organization (BSFO) open to the public or that has on-site employees shall require its employees, customers, and other individuals to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth when on the premises. BSFOs that offer food or beverages for in-person consumption may permit employees and customers to remove face coverings while eating or drinking, but must require face coverings at all other times. 

All K-12 schools (public and nonpublic), higher education institutions, vocational programs, and day care programs (both DCFS licensed and license exempt) shall require students, employees, and other individuals to wear a face covering when on the premises. Schools and day cares may permit face coverings to be removed while eating and drinking, while outdoors and maintaining social distance, and while playing a musical instrument if necessary. Staff may use a face shield when necessary to allow facial visualization during instruction and communication.