Cloth Face Coverings for Use as Facemasks During the Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) Pandemic: What Science and Experience Have Taught Us

Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2022 Apr;16(2):726-733. doi: 10.1017/dmp.2020.354. Epub 2020 Sep 14.


The current coronavirus (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 [SARS-CoV-2]) pandemic has resulted in severe shortages of personal protective equipment, including respiratory protective equipment, such as N95 respirators. This has led some government agencies to suggest the use of cloth face coverings (CFCs) by health-care providers and the general public as a last resort when standard respiratory protective equipment is unavailable. Although such coverings have been in use for over a century and have found widespread use during some previous pandemics, research data are relatively scant for the protective value of this measure. This article, a literature review, explores the development of CFCs and reviews available scientific research regarding the efficacy of this intervention as a preventive measure in the spread of airborne infectious diseases.

Keywords: cloth face coverings; efficacy; infection control; pandemic; surgical masks.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Masks
  • Pandemics* / prevention & control
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • SARS-CoV-2