Our infection control nurse has asked us to wear the colored side of our mask out when we are well and the white side out when we are sick. Is this standard practice?

No, this is not standard practice. First of all, let me say that if you are sick, you should not be at work at all! It doesn’t matter the color of your mask or shield, or if you wear a shield, paper mask and cloth mask. You should not be working.

I have not heard of turning the mask, and I have checked with some authorities who tell me that cloth masks are not going to prevent you from getting the virus but will protect the people around you to some extent. You wear a medical grade face mask to protect you from someone who is sick.

Face shields are even more protective as they do not get wet and touch your skin the way that paper masks do. In studies, they are finding that people wearing masks are touching the masks, repositioning them, crimping their nose as their glasses are fogging, and pulling down under their chins further. Every time you touch your face you increase your risk of exposure.

An N-95 mask fits tightly against the face; it provides more protection than the typical paper mask. Some individuals feel the need to decorate their masks. This voids the NIOSH approval because the respirator can no longer be guaranteed to provide the necessary level of protection.

The face shield prevents you from needing to crimp, pull it down under your chin and reposition it, thus limiting your risk. Also, the face shield does not get wet from breathing into it. Most shields have a forehead sponge that will collect most sweat.

There is a great resource from the CDC that describes all of the different personal protective equipment. The link is https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/RespiratorInfographics.html.