My Mask Protects You And Yours Protects Me
As we move to Stage 3 of reopening, more people are returning to work, preparing to go back to school, reconnecting, moving around the city and using public transit. This is making physical distancing more challenging, or nearing impossible. The risk of spreading COVID-19 is greater indoors as there is less air flow and ventilation, more crowding, and a greater chance of touching surfaces that have been contaminated by respiratory droplets.
Wearing masks or face coverings indoors helps us keep our respiratory droplets to ourselves to prevent spreading germs to others. There is evidence that cloth masks can reduce the spread of respiratory droplets into the air and landing on surfaces. Jurisdictions that have legislated mandatory masks have seen a decrease in new COVID-19 cases.
The use of masks/face coverings is non-invasive, inexpensive, and can help save lives. Masks may also serve as a visual reminder to everyone that we need to be vigilant and continue to maintain physical distance.
Masks or Face Coverings
Masks or face coverings can help keep your respiratory droplets to yourself and protect others when we are unable to maintain physical distancing. The general public should wear masks or face coverings when going to public places, and when entering enclosed public settings, and they can be made with household items or purchased materials. It is important to use and clean a mask properly. Using a mask incorrectly can accidentally spread infection to the wearer.
Qualities of a Good Cloth Mask or Face Covering
A good cloth mask or face covering should:
- Be at least two layers of tightly woven cotton or linen.
- Cover over nose, mouth and chin, and be easy to breathe through.
- Fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops without gaping or impairing vision.
- Be comfortable to avoid the need for adjustments when wearing.
- Maintain their shape after washing and drying.
- Not contain non-breathable materials such as plastic.
Proper Use of a Mask or Face Covering
- Do not share your mask with others.
- Wash your hands before putting on and after taking off a mask.
- Place the mask over your nose, mouth and chin.
- Avoid touching your face and mask while using it.
- Change your mask as soon as it is moist or dirty.
- Do not leave your mask tucked under the chin, hanging from your ear, or on your forehead.
- Remove the mask by the ear loops without touching the front of the mask.
- Put used mask in a plastic bag or directly in the laundry bin to be washed.
- Launder cloth masks with other items using the hot cycle and dryer.
People Who Should Not Use Face Masks
- Children under the age of two.
- Anyone who has trouble breathing or cannot remove the mask without assistance.
Use of Face Shields as an Alternative to Masks
A face shield is not an alternative to a mask. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that they “do not recommend use of face shields as a substitute for cloth face coverings. It is not known if face shields protect others from the spray of respiratory particles. The CDC does not recommend use of face shields for normal everyday activities or as a substitute for cloth face coverings.”
Face shields are absolutely helpful in protecting you in high-risk environments or if you have a compromised immune system, or even if you require additional peace of mind. They should always be used in the context of
Use of Masks or Respirators with Exhalation Valves or Exhaust Valves
Masks with an exhalation valve are not recommended because they may filter dust particles in the air as the person inhales, but they may not filter virus particles or respiratory droplets. This means droplets from a person can be spread in a room, reducing the benefit of the mask. Respirators with exhaust valves are also not recommended. These are intended to make the respirator more comfortable for the person who is wearing it, but they can also allow respiratory droplets to spread in room.