TRICARE FAQs: COVID-19 and Face Masks

6/8/2020

During these uncertain times, you may have questions about your TRICARE benefit. You can find answers to your frequently asked questions (FAQs) and more on the TRICARE Coronavirus FAQs page.

The following are some of the most frequently asked questions about face masks or coverings and COVID-19:

Question: When should I wear a mask?

Answer: Whenever you’re out in public, like at your local grocery store or pharmacy, where it’s difficult to maintain 6 feet of social distance, you should wear a cloth face covering. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the coronavirus and help those who are unaware they have the virus from transmitting it to others.

The Department of Defense (DoD) is closely following guidance from the CDC as well. In an April memo on the use of face masks and coverings, the Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper explained the DoD policy, “Effective immediately, to the extent practical, all individuals on DoD property, installations, and facilities will wear cloth face coverings when they cannot maintain 6 feet of social distance in public areas or work centers.” You can learn more about DoD’s directive by going to the Face Masks FAQ topic.

Question: I don’t have a mask. Where can I get one?     

Answer: You can make a simple face cloth covering using common household items. It’s easy and cost effective—all you need is some cotton fabric, two strings, scissors, and a sewing machine. Don’t have a sewing machine? Use an old T-shirt or a bandana and a pair of scissors. You can read step-by-step instructions from CDC or watch the U.S. surgeon general’s tutorial on how to make cloth face coverings. Cloth face coverings aren’t surgical or N95 respiratory masks. Those masks should be reserved for health care workers and medical first responders.

Question: Are cloth face coverings safe for children?     

Answer: Depending on your child’s age and health, he or she shouldn’t use a cloth face covering. The CDC states, “Children under age 2, or anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance,” shouldn’t use cloth face coverings. All other adults and children should wear cloth face coverings whenever they’re in a public setting and can’t maintain 6 feet of social distance.

Question: How do I wear a cloth face covering?     

Answer: Wearing a cloth face covering properly helps protect others in case you’re infected but don’t have symptoms. When you need to wear yours, follow these tips recommended by the CDC:

  • Wash your hands before putting on your cloth face covering
  • Put it over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin
  • Try to fit it snugly against the sides of your face
  • Make sure you can breathe easily

When you remove your cloth face covering, be careful not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Remember to wash your hands with soap and water. If soap and water are unavailable, CDC recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

You can find more information on face coverings, including how to wash your cloth face covering on the CDC website.

For more on COVID-19 FAQs, check out ones on pregnancy, children, and how to use the TRICARE Coronavirus FAQs page. As you continue to ask important questions, TRICARE is committed to getting you answers. Wearing a cloth face covering properly could help save a life from COVID-19. Stay safe, and stay informed.

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Last Updated 6/9/2020