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FAQs: When and where to wear to face masks

9Health Expert Dr. Kohli answers viewer questions about wearing face masks.

DENVER — Governor Jared Polis is asking Coloradans to wear masks when they leave their homes.

Many 9NEWS viewers said they’re still confused about when and where to wear them. They’ve also asked about how to keep them clean.

9Health Expert Dr. Payal Kohli answers those questions below.

(Editor's note: Responses have been edited for context and clarity.)

9NEWS: Initially, people were told they didn’t need to wear masks. Why are medical experts saying otherwise now?

Dr. Payal Kohli: One of the reasons we're now asking people to wear masks where we weren't before is because we realize that the degree of asymptomatic spread is a lot greater than we have realized. Recent studies have told us that 25% to 50% of people who are spreading this virus are asymptomatic.

Will a mask made out of a cotton t-shirt actually help even if a person wears it outside?

Kohli: Because there's a protective barrier on your face, they actually do filter out some of the large droplets from getting close to your face. We’re talking about the viral droplets that we’ve learned don’t just linger in the air for seconds, but for minutes. And that’s true even outside when people are on their walks or runs.

How often should people clean their masks?

Kohli: Just like you have to wash your underwear every single time you wear it, it's a single-use thing. You cannot use your masks over and over again. Use soap and water and dry them on high heat.

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What’s the risk if a person doesn’t properly clean their mask?

Kohli: The highest chance of getting infected is if you're reusing contaminated masks. Imagine if that mask has viral particles on the outside and you put it in your purse or your pocket, put it on the next day and then you're adjusting it. You've actually gone and inoculated those particles into your nose or near your mouth.

What happens if you touch your face to readjust the mask?

Kohli: It's going to increase your risk of infection

Dr. Kohli said the safest way to remove a face mask is from the edges. She said it's important for people to inspect any damage if they're making masks out of old t-shirts. That means no holes in shirts. Kohli also said putting peppermint oil on your hands is helpful to let you know how often your hands go near your face.

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