If you’re confused about the benefits of wearing a mask, you’re not alone. Early in the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO) and other renowned medical institutions did not advise the public to wear face masks. But now that more is known about this virus and how it spreads, these health leaders are recommending the use of masks to mitigate COVID-19.
Likewise, the St. Charles County Department of Public Health recommends that everyone wear a face covering when social distancing around others is difficult. While masks do not prevent the virus from entering the wearer’s body, they can help to prevent a sick or asymptomatic person from spreading the infection to others. The type of mask you choose to wear isn’t nearly as important as when, where and how you wear it.
Who Should Wear a Mask
Masks can help prevent both sick and asymptomatic people from spreading COVID-19. The CDC recommends that individuals wear a mask or cloth face covering in public settings or at times when social distancing is difficult. Respiratory droplets containing the virus become airborne when a person coughs, sneezes or talks. Using a mask creates a barrier that shortens the distance that virus-infected droplets travel.
Although safe and effective for wearers, masks should not be worn by:
- Children under 2.
- Anyone who has difficulty breathing.
- Anyone who is incapacitated or unable to remove a mask without assistance.
- Individuals engaging in high intensity activities like running or swimming.
Wearing a Mask Correctly
Masks need to be worn and cared for correctly to be effective. Put on a mask before you enter a public setting and keep the mask on until you are out of that setting.
Putting on and taking off a mask involves a few simple, but crucial, steps:
- Wash your hands with soap and water before putting on a mask. Only handle the ear loops or ties and avoid touching the center part that covers the nose and mouth.
- Make certain the mask covers from the bridge of your nose to below your chin and that it stretches to cover from cheek to cheek.
- Pull the ties (if applicable) so that the mask fits snugly against your face but allows for comfortable breathing and clear vision.
- If you choose a mask with pleats, it’s most comfortable to have the folded sides face downward.
- If wearing glasses: seal the top of the mask against your cheeks, wear glasses outside the mask, and use an anti-fogging treatment on the lenses.
- Take off the mask in the same way you put it on – only touch the ear loops or ties. Wash your hands with soap and water after removing the mask.
While these steps will reduce opportunities for the virus to spread, wearing the mask in an improper manner is not effective. Ensure the mask covers both the mouth and nose — only covering one of the two has no benefit. Similarly, letting the mask dangle from one ear or wearing it around your neck is not beneficial.
To clean a cloth mask, use laundry soap in the washing machine or at the sink. Use the low setting of your dryer or let it air dry completely before wearing again.
Watch and share these videos from SCCMO-TV for mask information and tips:
Cloth masks can be widely used by all individuals in public settings like stores, restaurants and workplaces. These masks can be purchased or acquired from several locations throughout our community or simply created using fabric, t-shirts or other materials. Surgical masks or respirators (N95) should be reserved for healthcare workers, first responders or others in workplaces where they are required.
Additional COVID-19 Information