The U.S. Army‘s top enlisted soldier said Tuesday that the service plans to issue some type of non-surgical mask to troops to help control the spread of the novel coronavirus.
During an Army Facebook Live on Tuesday, Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston said that soldiers should follow the face-covering guidance the service issued Monday evening until it can provide masks for them.
“We are going to get you the masks,” he said. “In the near term, we will get you something either black or camouflage to put on.”
Grinston gave no other details, but Army officials confirmed to Military.com that the service is working on a plan to eventually issue some type of masks to soldiers and will release details in the near future.
The Army issued broad guidance regarding a Pentagon announcement Sunday that service members, family members and other personnel may make their own face coverings to wear when social distancing is not possible.
The Air Force began making their own masks in order to protect airmen in positions that make social distancing difficult.
Soldiers are authorized to wear the “neck gaiter and other cloth items, such as bandanas and scarves, as face coverings,” according to the guidance.
“To protect the facial area, the cloth item must cover the mouth and nose and extend to the chin or below as well as to the sides of the face,” Lt. Col. Emanuel Ortiz, an Army spokesman, told Military.com. “It must be secured or fastened to the face in a manner that allows the soldier to breathe while also preventing disease exposure or contamination.”
Soldiers should not cut up Army Combat Uniforms to use as face coverings since they are chemically treated to reduce wrinkles.
“Our uniforms are treated with chemicals for various reasons, so we do not want people using these uniforms and putting them close to their face,” Army Chief of Staff James McConville said during the Facebook Live event.
The color of the masks is up to unit leaders, Army officials said, but Grinston added that homemade masks should look as professional as possible.
“You’ve got either a … black neck gaiter, brown, some kind of scarf — that’s fine,” he said. “Use common sense. I don’t want to see any skull and crossbones on your face — maybe a brown or something that looks somewhat professional.”
Surgical masks and N95 respirators are in short supply and should be reserved for health care workers or other medical first responders, as recommended by CDC guidance, Ortiz said.