The Proper Usage of a Mask


Why Masks?

Remember, we mostly wear a mask to protect not ourselves, but one another. And by protecting one another, we protect ourselves.

So, while wearing a mask does provide some protection for you from the Coronavirus, it is mostly to protect others in case you have the virus and you don’t know it because you don’t have any symptoms (you are “asymptomatic”).

While some people may feel they can take a risk by not wearing a mask, or not wearing it properly; it’s not themselves they put at risk. They are putting others at risk if they are contagious and don’t know it because they’re asymptomatic.

Masks don’t create 100% protection. They must be used along with other factors, each of which lower the risk of infection. The other risk-reduction factors are:

  • those with symptoms of COVID-19, a flu, or a cold must stay home and not go out to church, their job, or for any reason, except for being tested or medical needs
  • constant washing or sanitizing of hands and surfaces and being very careful not to touch one’s face or mask without washing/sanitizing first and then again, after
  • continue to cover one’s mouth when coughing or sneezing with a disposable tissue or into one’s inside elbow even if wearing a mask
  • maintain social distancing
  • wearing the right kind of mask (facial covering) correctly.


What Types of Masks Are Useful?

The ordinary, disposable, blue and white, multi-layered paper masks that health care workers use work just fine.

If you make your own cloth mask, it should be several layers and large enough to go over your nose and under your chin and half-way to each ear side-to-side.

Gaiters: These are large cloths that are like detachable turtle necks or very large handkerchiefs that go from over the nose all the way down to one’s chest. They should be several layers, or at least, doubled over.


What Types of Masks Are Not Useful?

Masks with breathing valves. These are designed usually for those who work in dusty jobs. Even if they have a filter in the valve (many don’t), they are designed to make breathing easier in or out. But that then defeats the purpose of a mask, which is to slow down one’s breath enough that the fibers of the mask can trap droplets and airborne viruses.

Thin, one-ply masks or gaiters. These lightweight masks or gaiters, some of which are homemade or sold, don’t trap the virus because they are too thin. If you hold the mask or gaiter up to a light and see pinholes of light coming through, then these cloths aren’t going to do their job.

A regular handkerchief tied around the nose. Any cloth that is tied over the nose and then just hangs loosely over the mouth (and makes one look like an old-timey back robber) is absolutely unacceptable to be used in church. They are not stopping your breath at all.

Face shields without masks. These also do not stop one’s breath from flowing freely around the shield and are unacceptable for use in the church unless there is a proper mask also being worn underneath.


Proper Wearing of a Mask

A main difficulty of improper mask-wearing is when the mask droops down and is no longer covering one’s nose. This is equivalent to not wearing a mask at all. If the nose is uncovered, then simply exhaling would put out the virus into the air if you are contagious, since the virus can be airborne.

If you find that your mask regularly falls down exposing the nose, then you need to find a solution of keeping it up before coming the church. People often find they need to tighten the straps or to make sure the upper part of the mask strap that is by the nose goes over the ear, and not under it.

Going by CDC guidelines, all children aged 2 and up also need to wear a mask. If a child is not able to wear a mask, then they are not to come to church.

Adults without the physical or mental ability or competency to properly wear a mask must not be brought to church for their protection and the protection of others in case they are contagious.

If you need a mask or if your mask becomes unusable, for example, a strap breaks, there are disposable masks available. At Precious Blood, they are in the closet in the lobby. At St. Dorothea, they are in the book rack in the main lobby and in the priest’s confessional.


Masks and Receiving Holy Communion

A mask must remain on when approaching the priest or Eucharistic Minister to receive Holy Communion. Taking a mask off to receive means you would be breathing into the face of the minister, which is extremely risky for the minister if you are contagious and asymptomatic.

Thus, receiving on the tongue is not allowed. And if you are physically unable to receive in the hand (with a flat palm up to receive the Host), then unfortunately, you may not receive Communion.

There are many who are self-isolating or homebound or are in an institution who would ordinarily be able to receive Communion, but are also unable to do so  (except in danger of death) at this time. The nature of the pandemic is that the risk of transmission necessarily restricts what we would like to do. And we do not engage in behavior that puts people’s health and life at risk. This is a difficult sacrifice to make to protect one another.

We pray for a speedy and successful roll-out of vaccines that will allow us all to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord as we have in the past.


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