This article is free to all readers because it includes information important to public safety and health in our community.
You've heard the preaching from health officials, public officials, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and us: Wear a mask.
But with the COVID-19 pandemic getting worse — more than 11 million people in our country have been infected — it's not good enough to just wear masks. They need to be worn properly.
In many instances, we've seen people wear masks over their mouth but not their nose. At times, we've seen people wear them on their chins.
The effectiveness of masks has been debated. We believe science is conclusive that masks — while not the be-all-end-all solution to this virus — do limit the spread.
However their effectiveness is reduced, or even eliminated, if they are not worn properly.
The CDC offers these recommendations:
- Wash your hands before putting on your mask.
- Put it over your nose and mouth, and secure it under your chin.
- Try to fit it snugly against the sides of your face.
- Make sure you can breathe easily.
- CDC does not recommend use of masks or cloth masks for source control if they have an exhalation valve or vent.
The other point many people either don't understand or don't adhere to is that surgical masks — the powder-blue masks that many of us wear — are intended as single-use masks. They are not intended to be worn repeatedly, according to the World Health Organization.
"After use they should be removed using appropriate techniques (i.e. do not touch the front, remove by pulling the elastic ear straps or laces from behind) and disposed of immediately in an infectious waste bin with a lid, followed by hand hygiene," WHO says on its website.
Cloth masks can be reused, but should be cleaned at least daily, the CDC said.
We suspect many people reuse surgical masks and don't wash their cloth masks daily. However, it's all part of the recommendations to keep us safer.
As the virus spreads — and with the Thanksgiving holiday approaching — let's all do our part to keep ourselves and our communities safe.