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Everything you need to know about cloth face masks

No, they're not required, but wearing them is strongly recommended by health leaders to stop the spread of COVID-19.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn — Free cloth face masks are now available to all Tennesseeans.

The Knox County Health Department gave out more than 1,200 of those masks on the first day of distribution.

The health department can't force anyone to wear a mask, but it's highly recommended.

A homemade mask, a bandanna, a mask from the doctor's office, or a state issued masks all serve the same purpose.

That's to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Some state lawmakers posted photos on Twitter of the state masks, commenting that they're porous and won't protect anybody.

State Senator and doctor Richard Briggs of Knoxville said he hasn't seen the masks in person yet, but anything that covers your face is better than nothing.

RELATED: Free face masks available at county health departments

"The idea is that the mask...should trap droplets that would be coming out of your mouth when you breathe or talk or sneeze or cough," said Dr. Martha Buchanan, director of the Knox County Health Department. "So it if traps droplets, it's effective."

When you wear whatever mask you chose, it' has to cover your mouth and nose.

Don't touch it when you're out in public because all the germs from non-mask wearing people will get on your hands.

When you do remove the mask, do so by the straps, then wash your hands.

The CDC recommends washing cloth masks after each use.

"Wash it in hot water," said Buchanan. "I use the gentle cycle in my washer and put it in my delicates bag so that they don't get messed up and hang them to dry."

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Briggs said the virus can enter your body through your eyes, which is why doctors wear face shields when working with COVID-19 patients.

Wearing a mask protects other people from any germs you may have.

You're not protected if people you encounter aren't wearing masks.

"These measures won't just protect you, they'll also protect the people around you and help ensure that we as a community continue to move forward and not backward in our plan," said Buchanan.