When should health workers wear masks in the context of COVID-19?
Health workers are the most likely to be exposed to COVID-19 because they are in close contact with patients with suspected, probable or confirmed COVID-19.
In areas of community or cluster transmission, health workers, caregivers and visitors should wear a mask at all times when in the health facility, even if physical distancing can be maintained. Masks should be worn throughout their shifts, apart from when eating, drinking or needing to change the mask for specific reasons:
- Health workers and caregivers include: doctors, nurses, midwives, medical attendants, cleaners, community health workers, and any others working in clinical areas.
- Health workers must remember to combine hand hygiene with any time they touch their mask or face, before and after putting on and removing their masks, as well as before they touch them to readjust them.
In areas with sporadic spread of COVID-19, health workers in clinical areas should wear medical masks throughout their shift apart from when eating, drinking or needing to change the mask for specific reasons.
Health workers should continue to physically distance and avoid unnecessary close contact with colleagues and others in the facility when not providing patient care.
Respirator masks are recommended for use where aerosol generating procedures are in place for a suspect/confirmed COVID-19 patient. In these settings, WHO recommends the use of airborne and contact precautions.
As health workers have been infected with COVID-19 outside of health facilities, it is critical that health workers, as all people, follow the guidance to protect themselves from infection when outside of a health facility.
- Healthcare workers can complete our OpenWHO course on how to put on and remove personal protective equipment.
- Read our guidance on ‘Infection prevention and control during health care when coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is suspected or confirmed’.
WHO first issued interim guidance on recommended practices for health workers caring for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients in January 2020, which included following droplet/contact precautions: surgical gown, gloves, medical mask, and eye protection.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Maskshttps://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/question-and-answers-hub/q-a-detail/coronavirus-disease-covid-19-masks