By Judy Geiger, RN
It’s good to see that so many people in our community have adopted new behaviors to protect themselves and others from the novel coronavirus. Every time I go to the grocery store, more and more people are wearing cloth masks or face coverings, giving others adequate space and using hand sanitizer. These good habits have so far protected our community from a large outbreak.
However, last week, Clatsop County’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases more than doubled. This cluster of illness is a good reminder to all of us that the novel coronavirus is present in our community and can still spread.
In fact, some people may unknowingly be exposing themselves to the novel coronavirus by the way they use and handle their mask. So, please take a minute to read and practice these tips for using a mask safely.
Currently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone over age 2 wear a cloth face covering when they leave home, especially in settings where it is difficult to maintain a 6-foot distance from others. You should wear a mask even if you don’t have symptoms of COVID-19.
The novel coronavirus has been able to spread quickly around the world because people can have it without showing any symptoms. They can carry the virus to others without realizing it.
That’s why it’s important that we wear masks in public. We may not feel ill today, but we can still carry the novel coronavirus to others without realizing it. Any of us could be asymptomatic carriers.
Tips to wear a mask like a pro
- Whether you use a bandanna, homemade mask or something else, it must cover your mouth and nose completely.
- It should fit snug against the sides your face. If you’re wearing glasses, the mask should be under your glasses.
- You should not have difficulty breathing.
You can make or buy cloth masks. The most important things to remember are that the mask should be made from a tightly woven cotton material and fit snugly across your face. A quick search on the Internet will give you hundreds of patterns, including ones that don’t require sewing.
When worn properly, a cloth mask prevents you from spreading the virus when speaking, sneezing or coughing. By wearing masks, we are protecting each other.
When wearing a mask, you must remember that both the inside and the outside of the mask could be contaminated. It’s best to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before putting your mask on so that you don’t contaminate the part of the mask that’s against your face. You should wash or sanitize your hands again after touching your mask to adjust it or remove it.
No mask can prevent you from being infected through the mucous membranes of your eyes, which is part of the reason you should avoid touching your face while wearing a mask. Cloth masks are also not adequate for protecting health care workers during certain medical procedures.
You can reuse cloth masks, but they must be washed regularly. You should change your mask at least daily and any time it gets dirty or wet. Wash it as you would other clothes and be sure to dry it completely on high heat. Most people will need at least three cloth masks: one to wear, one in the wash, and one to trade out.
Wear a cloth mask when you’re out in public. Wash your hands often. And get medical care when you need it.
Judy Geiger, RN, joined Columbia Memorial Hospital in January 2019 as the Vice President of Patient Care Services. She has more than three decades of experience as a pediatric nurse and a nurse administrator, including serving as a chief nursing officer and executive director in a large hospital.
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