Do makeshift face coverings really protect you in public?

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- New CDC guidelines suggest anyone in public wear some type of a face covering like a cloth mask. Not the same as surgical or N95 masks, but rather anything that covers your nose and mouth with fabric.

Dr. Michael Chang is an infectious disease specialist with UTHealth McGovern Medical School. He said cloth face coverings are an added possible protection against spread and part of a set of strategies.

"Just because you have a mask on doesn't mean you should go out more than you were planning to and you definitely need to do the social distancing," said Dr. Chang during a FaceTime interview. "You want to be sure that it covers your nose and mouth. I see a lot of people with their cloth coverings just under the nose so that their nostrils are still exposed. It only covers the mouth and for it to have what we assume to be maximum effectiveness, you're going to want it to cover the nose and the mouth."

Also, and this might be the hardest part, once you've put on the mask don't touch it. That could defeat the mask's purpose.

"Before you put your mask on, after you take it off, definitely (practice) hand hygiene. Washing your hands, (use) hand sanitizer very frequently," said Chang. "If it's on your fingers and you touch any other surfaces you can contaminate those surfaces."

Chang said wearing face coverings or masks should not change your current habits. You shouldn't go out more than necessary just because you have a face covering. And if you show symptoms, he said you should stay home. Self-quarantine or isolation are the only ways to stop the spread of the disease so far.

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