As the novel coronavirus continues to spread across the United States, researchers are studying how it behaves in individuals and populations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a significant portion of individuals infected with coronavirus don’t have any symptoms but can still transmit the virus to others. This means the virus can spread among people interacting close to one another—for example, speaking, coughing or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.
Using simple cloth face coverings, recommended by the CDC, is an important measure everyone should take to slow the spread of coronavirus. These coverings or masks, which can be made at home inexpensively from common materials, limit the spread of infectious droplets in the air by containing coughs and sneezes. Because homemade masks protect everyone else from the droplets created by the wearer, it is important that as many people as possible wear these masks when leaving their homes. The Pennsylvania Department of Health recommends keeping this saying in mind: “My mask protects you, your mask protects me.”
Although those who are staying home and have no close contacts who are infected with COVID-19 don’t need a mask most of the time, wearing a nonmedical or homemade mask can help in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as shopping at essential businesses like grocery stores or pharmacies, visiting a health care provider, while on public transportation, or interacting with customers or clients at essential businesses.
It’s important to note that the cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.
Here are some best practices to keep in mind for making and wearing fabric or cloth masks:
- The mask should be made of two layers of tightly woven 100 percent cotton fabric.
- Consider buying materials online rather than going out to a store.
- Purchase masks made by small businesses, saving medical masks for health care workers.
- Before putting on a mask, clean hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- The mask should fit snugly around your mouth and nose.
- If the mask has a metal wire it should be fitted snugly to the bridge of your nose.
- Avoid touching the mask while wearing it.
- If you do touch the mask, wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Wash the mask after every use.
- Remove the mask from behind—don’t touch the front of the mask.
- Immediately wash your hands for 20 seconds after removing the mask.
- When a homemade mask isn’t available, a scarf or bandana will do.
- Don’t put cloth masks on children under age 2 or on anyone who has trouble breathing or is unable to remove the mask on their own.
Mount Nittany Health is committed to the health, safety and wellbeing of its patients, staff and community. We are prepared for potential infectious disease outbreaks, whether its measles, flu or new viruses like coronavirus as part of our commitment to prevent disease and ensure a healthy community for all. We rigorously follow the guidance from the CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health for screening and testing of patients for COVID-19; ensuring all levels of protection for our patients, staff and community.
As the situation continues to evolve, we have taken steps to prepare and protect our community, including a dedicated COVID-19 wing, limiting visitors in our facilities at Mount Nittany Health, except for special circumstances, screenings, test collection sites, masking requirements, and rescheduling elective and non-essential services. We continue to evaluate and will announce further measures as needed with the focus on our community’s health and wellbeing.
Please visit mountnittany.org/coronavirus for more information.
Paul Guillard, MD, Mount Nittany Physician Group Internal Medicine, has been practicing with the Physician Group since 2010, and currently serves as vice chair for the Mount Nittany Physician Group Board of Directors.
This article originally appeared in the Centre Daily Times.