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Face masks recommended for virus fight

Mary Beth TeSelle
Special to The Union

According to the CDC, cloth face coverings should:

— fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face.

— be secured with ties or ear loops.

— include multiple layers of fabric.

— allow for breathing without restriction.

— be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.

Whether it is at the grocery store, the gas station or perhaps just on a local hiking trail, a new sight can be seen these days – people wearing face masks and other facial coverings.

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control began recommending the use of facial masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19. Citing recent studies that showed a significant number of individuals with coronavirus may lack symptoms but still transmit the virus to others, the CDC is now urging all Americans to cover their face while out in public.

“Masks serve dual purposes,” explains Heather Scott, RN, Infection Prevention Manager at Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital. “They not only protect the wearer from others in close proximity, they also protect others in close proximity to the wearer.”

Because the virus can spread between people through droplets expelled from the mouth while speaking, coughing or sneezing, a face mask can be a powerful prevention tool. However, Scott points out that the mask needs to be worn and used correctly.

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“The full benefit of masks is realized with proper fit and ensuring the nose and mouth are covered,” Scott explains. “That said, it does not mean that the masks used for travel outside the home need to be expertly fitted. Cloth masks, bandanas or the light-weight mass-produced masks are appropriate for the community and serve the important function of source containment.”

Scott adds that respirators are not necessary, but can work as an option as well.

The CDC supports the use of cloth masks made from household items and common materials, including discarded clothes, socks, etc.

The CDC recommends wearing a mask or face covering in any public setting where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, including grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential services sites.

Face coverings should be washed frequently. The CDC says laundering in a washing machine with detergent will provide adequate cleaning.

Scott says the key to an effective face mask is making sure it covers the face in the right spot.

“It is important to cover the mouth as well as the bridge of the nose,” she explains. “The mask should also extend under the chin, to prevent slipping and displacement.”

Scott also wants the community to be mindful of proper use of gloves, for those who choose to wear them.

“Gloves are only protective through one interaction or transaction that involves passing an object,” she says. “For instance, if money or credit cards are transferred between the owner of the card and a cashier, the gloves are contaminated by indirect contact with the money or credit card, unless a new pair of gloves is worn for each previous or subsequent transaction.”

When used incorrectly, gloves can provide a false sense of security. Scott cautions glove wearers to be mindful of what the gloves have touched.

“Contaminated gloves pose the same risk as contaminated hands,” she says. “The type of material used to construct the gloves does not matter.”

In addition, gloves must be discarded properly. They should be thrown into the trash immediately after use.

Although facial masks and gloves can provide protection when used correctly, both Scott and the CDC remind us all that the best tool against the spread of the virus is still the simple act of staying home.

“The best prevention is limited interaction in public and maintaining the distance of six feet or more between yourself and others (social distancing),” Scott explains. “Social distancing is proving to be preventive based on the data analyses throughout the country. Flattening the curve of this pandemic requires adequate time, cooperation, attention to source containment by everyone. Continued vigilance is essential, staying mindful of proper hand hygiene with soap and water or sanitizer, covering sneezes and coughs with tissues, and social distancing.”


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