The time may be coming, especially if various parts of the US open up, that we will be required to wear masks outside at all times. Right now I wear mine when I go to stores, and sometimes when I’m meeting people for infrequent socially-distanced conversations. The New York Times “users guide” below tells you why you should wear one (a good reason is that some carriers are asymptomatic), but it’s not clear that, if you’re like me and stay well away from anyone outdoors, why you need to wear them when you’re just walking about. But I found the article useful; for one thing, it approves of the use of some homemade fabric masks.
I have three types of masks, which I show below. The first two types I found by scrounging through my lab; I never used them, but suspect that they were used when people working there mixed chemicals or used hazardous solution.
The first one is my “heavy duty” mask, which I wear to the grocery store. I then remove it carefully (washing my hands before and after, as the article specifies) and put it in an isolated place to disinfect for a week. I have only a couple of these and thus have to save and re-use them:
This is the type of mask described in the article as a “surgical” or “medical” mask. I have only a few of these as well, and keep them in my car (along with latex gloves, paper towels, and isopropyl alcohol) to use in emergency situations. They are flimsy, so I discard them after use.
Our department thoughtfully provided each of us with one of these heavy-duty fabric masks. They have two layers of heavy fabric and cloth ties, and have the enormous advantage of being washable, which renders them virus-free (use soap and hot water). I’ve used this one infrequently, as I’m saving it as my “go to” mask when I run out of the others.
I’m not sure if you can buy these kinds of masks in stores; I suspect that if you can, they’re unavailable, just like any sanitizing agent.
You can, of course, make homemade masks, and here’s a good YouTube video from the Surgeon General about how to make one from a tee-shirt (or other fabric) and two rubber bands—no sewing required. I’m sure this mask is just as effective (if not as aesthetic) as my fabric mask above, so long as you make sure there are several layers. But do read the article above, for the time may be coming when all of us will need masks when we leave our homes—for any reason. (Note, though, that the article says you don’t need masks when exercising outdoors: running and the like.)