The CDC now recommends Americans wear cloth face coverings in public to help slow the spread of COVID-19. This recommendation comes after research findings which show that asymptomatic people, those who are not experiencing any symptoms, can spread the virus. While staying home is the best way to avoid spreading germs, there are times it is necessary to leave such as going to the grocery store. We believe it is our obligation and duty as Americans to abide by this recommendation and wear a mask every time we are in public to help keep others safe.
Wearing Cloth Face Coverings and Masks
Cloth face coverings and masks can be made from items you already have such as t-shirts, bandanas, pillowcases, and scraps of fabric. Cloth face covering and masks should cover your mouth and nose, fit snugly but comfortably, include multiple layers of fabric, and allow for breathing without restriction. When choosing a material, look for something that has tight stitching while still being breathable. Cotton is a great option, while loose-knit fabrics will not provide much protection and should be avoided. A quick google search will bring up many ideas including no-sew options and patterns for those who can sew, as well as companies selling ready-to-use cloth masks.
Cloth face coverings should be worn any time you are out in public – at the grocery store, running errands, and when using mass transit or ride shares. When wearing these cloth face coverings and masks, it is still important not to touch your face. If you can’t breathe in your mask, choose a different material. If the mask is uncomfortable, try not to adjust it until you can wash your hands or at least use a hand sanitizer first. If you are re-wearing a mask that has not been laundered, be sure to put the same side towards your face each time. And, remember to wash your hands immediately after removing your mask.
Cleaning Cloth Face Coverings and Masks
Disposable N95 respirators and surgical masks are intended for single-use and should only be used by medical professionals and others at high risk of contracting or spreading the virus. If you have these at home, please consider donating them to your local hospital to help protect those who are protecting us. Many hospitals are resorting to extreme measures to protect their nurses and doctors due to supply shortages of protective gear. If you are in a position to be able to make cloth face coverings, most hospitals are taking donations of homemade masks as well. Just be sure to call the hospital before bringing donations so they can make arrangements for receiving them.
Cloth face coverings and masks, however, can usually be laundered to clean. Cloth masks can be laundered with other clothing or washable items, using your regular detergent and warm water. The CDC recommends washing cloth masks in the hottest water and drying on the highest temperature that is safe for the fabric. Check with the manufacturer (if available) or use the same care as you would with similar types of fabric and your cloth masks should last for many uses.
Gloves are intended to reduce cross-contamination and keep your hands clean when touching potentially contaminated items. However, wearing gloves won’t work as intended if you are re-using gloves, wearing the same pair all over town, touching your face with the gloves on, etc. You wouldn’t touch a piece of raw chicken then touch your cell phone with the same finger without washing it first and doing so with gloves on is no different. This is why it is generally not recommended for the general public to wear gloves and to instead just wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
If you choose to wear gloves, it is important to know how to properly doff (remove) them. It is helpful to think of your gloves as being coated in something nasty that you do not want to get on your skin by touching the outside of the glove or by “snapping” them when removing which can cause spray. As part of our staff’s training, we put shaving cream on each gloved hand and ask them to remove the gloves without spreading the “contamination.” If the shaving cream gets on any part of their skin, clothing, or any other surfaces, they fail the test and must re-learn proper techniques until they are able to safely remove their gloves.
To doff your gloves, first pinch the outside of one glove at the wrist or cuff without touching your bare skin. Then peel the glove off and away from your body, rolling it down and inside out. When the first glove is completely off your hand, hold it in a ball in your other, gloved hand. Next, peel off the second glove by putting your fingers inside the glove at the top of your wrist. Turn the second glove inside out while pulling it away from your body, leaving the first glove inside the second. Dispose of the gloves and wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer immediately after removing gloves.
We are all in this together, and we all play a role in keeping each other safe and healthy. Stay home as much as possible. If you do have to venture out, wear a face covering and always maintain physical distancing of at least 6 feet from other people. Cover your cough and wash your hands often. If you are showing flu-like symptoms, please stay home!