There is a great deal of information on the Internet about face masks. Some of it is hard to read through because of all the technical terms or the lengthiness of the content. Let us serve as your central source of information as we address several frequently asked questions with straightforward answers.
Do I need to wear a mask if I’m already social distancing?
The simple answer is yes. When out running errands or being face-to-face with anyone for communication, it is difficult to stay six feet away. Wearing a mask during these encounters is emphatically recommended by the CDC as a means of slowing down the spread of the virus from asymptomatic carriers. This is a reversal from their initial statement because further studies have been conducted, more data on the virus is available, and we’ve gained a better understanding of the transmission of this infection. The mask serves to prevent the wearer from scattering germs, especially when sneezing or coughing. The big droplets of saliva will be caught up in the covering.
If I’m sick, how should I help protect others?
Simply put - stay home. No matter what kind of sickness you have, right now is not the time to be out spreading it around. There are many people that are susceptible to all types of illnesses but still have to go to work and shop. If you can make sure they aren’t unnecessarily exposed to anything that would compromise their immune systems any further, it will make a difference in decreasing the spread of any virus.
Now more than ever, stores and restaurants are pivoting to low-cost or free delivery as a service for customers. This is an excellent way to still get the supplies you need without putting others at risk. In addition, many stores are offering contactless pickups as an easy way to avoid the crowds while you work on getting yourself back to good health.
Just about any sort of mask or covering will prevent the live virus from making its way onto many surfaces, where it can live for up to 5 days. However, the longer the virus is out in the open, the less likely you are to get sick because the active particles or germs are slowly dying off.
How do I properly wear a face mask?
This will depend on the type of mask that you’re wearing. Cloth or homemade masks should be tied or adjusted so that the fabric sits high on the bridge of the nose, is pulled down under the chin and is flush with the mouth. This will allow for the best coverage while breathing in and out. These types of masks will never create a perfect seal on your face, so the most important thing to remember is that your nose and mouth need to be completely covered. This is to guard against you spreading your germs, not the prevention of you taking in germs. The general nature of cloth masks is to have a layer of protection separating your nose and mouth from the outside air.
Light surgical masks are another simple form of protection against a virus, they do not guarantee you will not absorb or disperse a virus. The most effective way to wear these types of masks is to tie one set of straps high on the back of the head and the other at the base of the back of the skull, making sure it is tight so the mask doesn’t slip down from the nose and doesn’t need adjustment. If there are ear loops, they should be tight enough to bring the mask close to the mouth and nose.
A much more effective face mask is the N95 respirator. A properly fit respirator should slightly draw into the cheeks and chin when you breathe in and then slightly push out. No gaps should be created anywhere on the face as you breathe out. If there is any air escaping or seeping in, the mask is not correctly positioned or may not be the right size for your face. These masks are sized for adults so improper sizing is most likely to happen on children or young adults. When not properly fitted, the N95 masks are providing an equal level of protection as cloth and surgical masks do. If you’re an adult and finding it difficult to find a respirator that fully fits and shields you, it may be necessary to try smaller sizes or respirators that have a rubber, flexible frame or base to them. Many times, these types of masks mold more easily around smaller or narrow faces.
Are there times I don’t need to wear a mask?
Yes, there are many instances when you’re alone, or with close family members that don’t involve wearing any sort of facial covering. As of right now, most mandates state that people should wear face masks when going into an essential business, into hospitals and clinics, and while using public transportation. But that leaves driving in your car, outdoors when properly distanced for other individuals, and your home as places that don’t necessitate a mask being worn.
Please make sure to follow federal, state, and local changes as they are announced. Because new information is always being provided, it may be necessary to adjust your habits and behaviors to meet these new regulations.
If you think you are sick, please make sure to distance yourself, and seek out the advice of a physician who may recommend virus testing. We will get through this together.