To Mask or Not to Mask

To Mask or Not to Mask

To reduce the spread of COVID-19, CDC recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings when around people outside of their household, especially when other social-distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

Since the start of COVID-19 there have been miscommunications and misunderstandings about the value or importance of wearing a face mask. As more data were evaluated on the causes of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends cloth face coverings. According to the CDC, face coverings can help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others and help protect people who are more vulnerable and at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Additionally, workers who frequently come into close contact with other people (e.g., in stores and restaurants) can help protect themselves and their customers by wearing a cloth face covering.

CDC requests that the purchase of Surgical and/or N95 (respirator-type) masks be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders; these types of masks are a critical component of their personal protective equipment (PPE). However, according to the CDC, cloth face coverings can be effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19 when they are worn by people frequenting public settings. The spread of COVID-19 can be reduced when cloth face coverings are used along with the other preventive measures, including social distancing (keeping at least six feet apart from people you don’t live with); frequent handwashing (each handwashing should take at least 20 seconds); and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.

Why Should I wear a face covering? Now that we understand that COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets, which are produced whenever an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice such as, while shouting, chanting, or singing. If these droplets are released by an infected person into the mouths, noses, or inhaled into the lungs of people who are nearby he/she has affectively spread the disease.

Recent studies show that a significant portion of individuals with COVID-19 lack symptoms (asymptomatic); even people who eventually develop symptoms (pre-symptomatic) can transmit the virus to others before showing any symptoms at all.

Who Should Wear A Cloth Face Covering? • All people over the age of two-years old in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. • People who know or think they might have COVID-19.
• Caregivers of people with COVID-19

Who Should Not Wear a Cloth Face Covering? Cloth face coverings should not be worn by: • Children younger than 2 years old. • Anyone who has trouble breathing. • Anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance. • People engaged in activities that may cause the cloth face covering to become wet, like when swimming at the beach or pool. A wet cloth face covering may make it difficult to breathe. For activities like swimming, it is particularly important to maintain physical distance from others when in the water. • People who are engaged in high intensity activities, like running, may not be able to wear a cloth face covering if it causes difficulty breathing. If unable to wear a cloth face covering, consider conducting the activity in a location with greater ventilation and air exchange (for instance, outdoors versus indoors) and where it is possible to maintain physical distance from others. • People who work in a setting where cloth face coverings may increase the risk of heat-related illness or cause safety concerns due to introduction of a hazard (for instance, straps getting caught in machinery) should consult with an occupational safety and health professional to determine the appropriate face covering for their setting. People who work outdoors may prioritize wearing a cloth face covering when in close contact with other people, like during group travel or shift meetings, and it when social distancing is possible.

Feasibility and Adaptations For some people, wearing cloth face coverings may not be possible in every situation. In some situations, wearing a cloth face covering may exacerbate a physical or mental health condition, lead to a medical emergency, or introduce significant safety concerns.

If it is not possible to wear a face covering, adaptations and alternatives should be considered whenever possible to increase the feasibility of wearing one or reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading. There is no question, when we add the wearing of a face covering to our other COVID-19 prevention measures, we are helping to prevent the spread of the virus, which can be a lifesaver for those who are most vulnerable in our community.