VANCOUVER -- The B.C. Centre for Disease Control released some information about different types of face masks, but maintains that wearing one is not a substitute for other methods of controlling the spread of the coronavirus.

The most effective actions people can take are physical distancing, washing their hands and staying home if sick, according to the BCCDC.

"Masks do not replace these actions," the centre said in a statement Monday. "Masks, face coverings and gloves are the least protective measures for reducing transmission of COVID-19."

But the CDC says when worn properly for short periods of time, they can offer some protection, particularly when being two metres away from others is not possible.

Cloth face masks can be used to reduce the spread of large respiratory droplets, but they offer only "minimal protection" to the person who wears them, the centre says. But if you plan to wear one anyway, the centre suggests using clean woven cotton or linen, such as a tea towel, bedsheet, pillowcase or T-shirt. The mask must fully cover your nose and mouth and should fit snugly while still allowing you to breathe easily. They also need to be washed regularly.

Other cloth face coverings like bandanas, niqabs and scarves can be used to prevent the spread of large droplets, the centre says, but adds that they offer "limited protection" to the person wearing them. 

"If the material is thin, fold it into several layers," the CDC says. "Be sure it covers the mouth, nose, and sides of the face."

N95 respirators are available at hardware stores and can protect workers from inhaling dust and fumes.

"These masks are not recommended to prevent COVID-19 because if they have a valve and you cough/ sneeze, you may spread a stream of germs through the valve," the centre says.

Personal protective equipment or PPE should be reserved for health-care workers or those who are caring for sick patients, the centre says. This includes medical and surgical masks and medical N95 respirators. The N95s need to be custom fit and protect against inhaling and exhaling small airborne particles. They fit closely over the nose and mouth and form a tight seal. Medical and surgical masks have a looser fit and are pleated or cup shaped. These masks are meant to be used only once.