The coronavirus continues to infect significant numbers of people throughout the state of Oregon and across the United States each day. Because there is currently no vaccine to prevent or cure the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the wearing of cloth face masks in public as an important measure to protect yourself and others from getting COVID-19.
At this time, Samaritan Health Services requires that anyone entering a Samaritan hospital, clinic or other facility must wear a protective face covering.
While wearing a cloth face mask may feel awkward, it is a critical tool in helping to contain the virus, said Bobbie O’Connell, assistant vice president of Patient Care Services, Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center.
“The spread of the virus can occur when droplets from coughing, sneezing or talking spray into the air and land in another’s mouth or nose. Once in another’s body, that person may inhale the virus into their lungs,” said O’Connell. “Wearing protective covering over your nose and mouth helps prevent this transmission.”
CDC guidelines recommend a face covering for everyone who is around people, “except young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or unable to remove the mask without assistance.”
O’Connell recommends that even if you feel perfectly healthy, you should wear a mask in any place where other people gather.
“Recent scientific studies indicate that people who lack symptoms, as well as those who eventually develop symptoms can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms,” said O’Connell. “That means any of us can be a carrier of the virus without ever knowing it. Because of this new evidence, wearing a face covering is imperative to helping stem the spread of the virus.”
But wait. Don’t we need to leave the masks for the health care workers?
Certain types of masks, yes. Due to nationwide shortages, surgical masks and N-95 masks should be reserved for those who work directly with patients, many of whom are very sick and require a clinician to work closely next to them.
For the rest of us going about our daily lives at work or the grocery store, a simple face covering made of multiple layers of fabric that can be laundered and machine-dried is enough. A scarf or bandanna can work, as can a repurposed bed sheet or t-shirt. Just be sure your covering does not restrict your breathing.
Find tips from the CDC on how to make simple face masks from common household items.
Fit Is Important
Your mask should fit snugly without leaving marks on your face. Pull the cloth across the bridge of your nose and cheek bones and secure with ear loops or ties behind your head. Make sure there are no gaps at the sides along your face, and then tuck excess fabric under your chin or into your shirt collar.
If you wear glasses, you may find that tucking the fabric under the bottom of your frames helps to minimize any fogging as you breathe. If that doesn’t work, pull the cloth a bit lower on your nose.
When removing the face covering, pull your mask away from your body being careful to avoid touching the outer-facing part of the mask as well as your face. Immediately wash or disinfect your hands for 20 seconds. Be sure to launder your mask daily to remove any possible contamination.
Take Other Precautions Beyond Masks
“As some parts of the country and state begin to ease back into some more normal activities, we may feel it is safe to be lax about precautions. However, the virus is still spiking in many areas and it is important to continue to protect each other from its spread,” said O’Connell.
Face coverings are also not a substitute for physical distancing and regular handwashing – protections we should also continue, she said.
“Remember, those droplets that carry the virus can travel, so we want to use a face mask, plus maintain about a six-foot distance from one another so the droplets can’t get close,” she said. “We should also continue to wash our hands with soap regularly for at least 20 seconds at a time, and of course, stay home if we feel sick.”
Learn how Samaritan Health Services is responding to the pandemic and how you can stay safe. Get the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease and Prevention, as well as instructions in creating your own face mask.