On the heels of an announcement by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urging Americans to begin using cloth face coverings in public to help slow the spread of COVID-19, Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson county health departments are advocating that all residents take heed and begin wearing a mask to cover their mouths and nose in public.
The CDC now recommends wearing a cloth mask in “public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain,” such as grocery stores, workplaces, restaurants and interactions with others outside of your home, etc.
Central Oregon’s public health experts emphasize that social distancing, frequent hand washing, and avoiding others when sick remain critical public health efforts that can prevent the transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
“Don’t assume that wearing a mask takes the place of any of those healthy behaviors,” said Muriel DeLaVergne-Brown, Crook County Public Health Administrator. “But covering up can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by the many local residents who may be carrying the virus, but are not showing signs of illness.”
Jefferson County Public Health Administrator Michael Baker adds that the CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
“The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance,” said Baker. “Please reserve the N-95 for those on the frontline of this outbreak who rely on them for protection and instead make cloth face masks for use in public for your family members.”
Baker noted that the principle behind the cloth masks is the same regardless of design. Having a physical barrier to prevent droplets from landing on others, discouraging the wearers from touching their faces, and possibly reducing large droplets from landing on mucous membranes are the goals for wearing masks in public.
Dr. George Conway, Deschutes County Health Services Director noted at the beginning of this pandemic, the strong message to the public from the CDC and WHO was not to wear N95 and other medical masks, to preserve that inventory for health care workers during potentially hazardous encounters unless you were already infected and need to interact with others.
“The assumption at the time was that people without symptoms were healthy and would not spread the disease,” said Conway. “As details of this virus have emerged, we now know that some people are contagious before they have symptoms and some never feel sick at all and they spread the disease before they would ever consider masking up.”
Conway noted that wearing a homemade mask is beneficial in helping reduce the spread of the virus among those who appear healthy, yet are carrying the virus and those with symptoms.
“When we both cover our nose and mouth, I protect you and you protect me,” he adds.
Health officials caution that wearers be mindful when adjusting facial coverings and avoid reaching under them if they itch to touch your nose or mouth because the virus can spread by unwashed hands. Also, masks do not work well if they are soiled or damaged.
Central Oregon Health Officials urge that there are a number of reasons to wear a cloth mask:
- Droplets do transmit the disease, but they can be generated from talking as well as coughing. Just standing next to someone talking could spread the disease if neither party is masked.
- DIY masks can possibly provide protection to the public without impacting the supply of manufactured masks currently prioritized for healthcare workers.
- There is data that suggests that in countries where masking is encouraged for all citizens, the rate of disease transmission may be reduced by their actions.
- Wearing a mask while sick is stigmatizing for those who wear them. Universal use wouldn’t identify who was sick and who wasn’t.
CDC ON HOMEMADE MASKS
CDC advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.
Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.
Should cloth face coverings be washed or otherwise cleaned regularly? How regularly?
Yes. They should be routinely washed depending on the frequency of use.
How does one safely sterilize/clean a cloth face covering?
A washing machine should suffice in properly washing a face covering. According to the California Department of Public Health, face cloths can be laundered with detergent and hot water and dried on a hot cycle.
How does one safely remove a used cloth face covering?
Individuals should be careful not to touch their eyes, nose, and mouth when removing their face covering and wash hands immediately after removing.
DESIGN TIPS FOR HOMEMADE MASKS FROM LOCAL HEALTH OFFICIALS:
- Build a mask that tightly encloses the area around the nose and mouth, from the bridge of the nose down to the chin, and extending onto the cheek beyond the corners of the mouth, so no gaps occur when talking or moving.
- Use mask material that is tightly woven but breathable. Possibly double-layer the fabric.
- Masks can be made from washable material such as fabric from a clean t-shirt or bandana.
- Choose a fabric that can handle high temperatures and bleach without shrinking or otherwise deforming.
- The mask should be tolerant of expected amounts of moisture from breathing.
- There is no standard design for a homemade facemask therefore, consider innovation using the design principle above. Below are example designs for consideration:
- Face Mask Kit, Providence St. Joseph Health
- How to sew a simple Fabric Face Mask, YouTube
- United States Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams even created a video demonstrating how to make your own mask
- CDC Guidance for DIY Face Masks
- Instructions from St. Charles Health System
- How to make a facemask, Allina Health
- Face Mask Directions, Joan Glass
- Facemask: A picture tutorial