Face masks now recommended in public settings

Published 6:03 pm Thursday, April 9, 2020

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As the COVID-19 virus continues to spread, the recommendations to avoid its transmission continue to evolve. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending the use of face masks in public settings — places such as grocery and hardware stores and pharmacies, where social distancing is difficult to maintain.

“A cloth face covering should be worn whenever people are in a community setting, especially in situations where you may be near people,” reads the CDC recommendation. “Cloth face coverings are especially important to wear in public in areas of widespread COVID-19 illness.”

The recommendation comes with warning: a face mask will not protect a person from contracting the virus, but it will help prevent someone with the virus from spreading it to others. Since COVID-19 is known to be asymptomatic for many carriers, other preventative methods remain necessary.

“It is important to remember that (using a mask) does not mean that you no longer have to adhere to other recommendations such as social distancing, frequent hand washing, staying home if you are sick, etc. A mask is an additional protective feature and not a substitute for other recommended practices,” the latest update from Beaufort County Emergency Services Deputy Director Chris Newkirk reads.

All masks are not the same, however. Since the primary purpose of wearing a face mask is to prevent the general public from spreading the disease, a cloth face mask, rather than those used in medical settings, is recommended.

“The CDC currently recommends this style mask for members of the general public that would like an additional level of protection. These cloth masks can be made or purchased, and serve as a barrier against droplets emitted from the user to other members of the public,” Newkirk wrote. “They can be washed and reused. These are not recommended for use by health care providers performing medical interventions.”

Surgical/procedural and N95 masks are not recommended for use by the general public, largely due to a limited supply and the need to reserve them for use by medical providers, EMTs, paramedics and others who may come into contact with COVID-19 patients.

Cloth face masks should:

  • fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face;
  • be secured with ties or ear loops;
  • include multiple layers of fabric;
  • allow for breathing without restriction;
  • be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.

While cloth face masks may be sewed or purchased, the CDC graphic showing patterns and  two other options that require no sewing, as can be seen in the illustration found HERE.