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Face masks are on everyone’s back-to-school supplies list

They'll be required in buses and schools around Tampa Bay. Could they be in style too?

BACK TO SCHOOL 2020 | Click to scroll down for more

One of the most prominent back-to-school items this year will be face masks as area school districts make them mandatory for staff and students.

Districts have announced plans to provide cloth reusable face masks, but don’t be surprised to find a new fashion trend emerge. Brands from Crayola to Disney to Hollywood action movies have seen brisk sales of fun and fashionable face coverings. And the state confirmed Monday that cloth and surgical masks qualify for savings during the back-to-school sales tax holiday this weekend.

But first, a word about safety. Mask policies continue to evolve as researchers learn more about the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has guidelines on how to wear them and what materials are best. All face coverings, whether disposable or reusable, should have at least two layers of breathable material and fully cover the nose and mouth.

They should be secure under the chin and fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face. Recent changes to mask recommendations discourage neck gaiters, the tube-like neck buffs usually made of thin polyester material. Plastic face shields and open-chin triangle bandanas also are discouraged because they leave the chin area uncovered.

Masks containing valves, mesh material or holes of any kind also are not recommended, recent research has indicated.

Related: Coronavirus still dominates back-to-school planning

Long-term use of masks can cause skin irritation and pimples nicknamed “maskne.” Dermatologists recommend using a gentle, fragrance-free facial moisturizer daily. In areas of high pressure such as behind the ears, a barrier cream containing zinc or petroleum jelly can bring relief.

Another tip from frequent mask wears is to use a clip on an extender to connect the ear loops behind your head. This relieves pressure behind the ears.

And keep in mind a student’s face covering still must comply with the school’s dress code. Masks can’t have “profane, offensive or disruptive subject matter,” said Stephen Hegarty, spokesman for the Pasco County school district.

“If it isn’t allowed on a T-shirt, it won’t be allowed on a mask,” said Isabel Mascareñas, spokeswoman for the Pinellas County school district. “Students can use appropriate, kid-friendly cartoon characters and super heroes on a mask that are not saying or doing anything offensive or inappropriate.”

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More back-to-school coverage

WHAT TO EXPECT: Back to school in Tampa Bay: Big plans, many unknowns

VIRTUAL CHALLENGE: Many kids will be learning remotely again. What we learned last spring.

NEW CONCERNS: Tampa Bay parents ‘make the best of a bad situation’ as school year nears

FREE ADVICE: Nine tips for starting school during a pandemic

SAVING MONEY: Florida’s back-to-school sales tax holiday starts Friday. Here’s what’s covered.

BY THE NUMBERS: Tampa Bay school districts at a glance for 2020-21

CLOSE QUARTERS: Masks will be vital on school buses, where distancing is difficult

STAYING SAFE: Eluding the virus while at school: a Q&A with health experts

STRESS REDUCTION: Talk openly to your kids about school and the pandemic, experts say

STUDENT VOICES: Online or on-campus? What Tampa Bay kids are saying about school and the virus.

TAKING STOCK: Events to help your kids get ready for school

EATING RIGHT: Need ideas for healthy school lunches? A nutrition expert weighs in.

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Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage