by ALEXANDRA RETTER
Cloths of vibrant shades and unique patterns are becoming part of the summer scene this year as individuals wear homemade cloth face masks in public amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Masks help to stop droplets of coughs or sneezes that may spread the virus connected with COVID-19 from reaching others and possibly making them sick. Community members are also debating whether to wear masks.
Infection Control Coordinator at Winona Health Lindsey Minard said the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are encouraging people to wear homemade cloth face masks in public to assist with preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Minard also noted that the CDC is advocating for the wearing of masks in public as a potential way to protect others from getting COVID-19. Masks help to block one’s germs from getting into others and making them sick, which is vital in case those with no COVID-19 symptoms are able to spread the virus associated with the illness, according to MDH.
“Although homemade face masks are not the same as medical-grade face masks, they can effectively block large droplets formed when you cough or sneeze from landing on another person’s eyes, nose, or mouth, and potentially spreading the virus to that person,” Minard shared.
MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm noted at an April 3 press conference that masks can protect others if one is sick or asymptomatic and not aware they have the virus tied to COVID-19. She said at another press conference to stay home when ill and stated that masks do not allow one to go out when sick.
“I’m protecting you if I’m wearing a mask, and you’re protecting me if you’re wearing a mask,” Malcolm said.
People may be hesitant to wear a mask because they find a facial covering to be uncomfortable, hot or unnecessary, Minard stated, or because particular medical, psychological or physical concerns result in it being hard to wear a mask.
“Although people are encouraged to wear a mask in public if possible, it’s also important to remember that those not wearing one may not be able to do so,” Minard explained. “As with anything else, there is rarely one solution that works for every single person, which is why it’s especially important to always wash your hands after being in a public place or around others and to avoid touching your own eyes, nose, and mouth, since that is how COVID-19 gets into your body to make you sick.”
Debate about whether to wear masks has occurred online, with some community members saying they do not wear masks for reasons such as finding it difficult to breathe while wearing them.
“I can’t breathe with them on, so I would only be able to handle a small amount of time with a mask on,” a community member wrote the Post.
“I agree that it is an important part of beating this, but I am not comfortable with them and would simply rather stay at home,” another community member shared.
Other community members are stating they do not enjoy wearing masks, but they do so in the situations in which it is recommended to wear them. “For many people in many professions, wearing a mask is an important part of worksite safety,” one community member wrote the Post. “Like it or not (which I don’t), safety needs to be the priority — especially as cases begin to climb again.”
“I am wearing mine to protect those who may be more vulnerable than myself and my family,” another wrote. “I am thinking about front-line workers and health care providers in our community. Their risk goes up with increased cases. Also attempting [to] normalize it. Do I like it? No. But it is a small price to pay to continue accessing goods and services in the community.”
Some community members are noting that they wear masks to try to prevent potentially spreading the virus associated with COVID-19 to others and expressing gratitude to those who wear masks. “I work at Mayo Clinic and wear one the entirety of my shift,” a community member wrote the Post. “And then I wear one while out in public because I care about others.”
“As a person who has a medically suppressed immune system, I am very appreciative of those that wear masks,” shared a reader. “Thank you.”
Children under the age of two and those who cannot take off or adjust a mask on their own should not wear a facial covering because doing so may result in suffocation, Minard said.
Additionally, she shared that wearing a mask when exercising and staying socially distanced from others outdoors or driving in a vehicle by oneself is not suggested because the chance of passing the virus associated with COVID-19 to others is low at those times.
Minard noted that she would tell individuals who are hesitant to wear a mask about the CDC’s recommendations for their use as a way to help protect others.
She said people could tell family members and friends who are hesitant to wear a mask about CDC website resources and reiterate that homemade face masks are not equivalent to medical-grade face masks, but they are able to prevent large cough or sneeze droplets from getting to someone else’s eyes, nose or mouth and possibly giving them the virus connected with COVID-19.
There is currently a lack of data regarding how many individuals are wearing masks in public locally, Minard stated. There are different anecdotes about the matter, she added.
“From a health care perspective, and based on what we hear from those we’re seeing at Winona Health, people appreciate seeing their fellow community members following the CDC guidelines to wear a mask out in public,” Minard shared. “It’s one of the steps, along with hand hygiene and social distancing, people can take to help prevent the spread of the virus.”
Individuals should wash their hands prior to putting on a mask, according to the CDC.
“It’s important to avoid touching your face mask while wearing it, and to frequently wash your hands to prevent the transfer of germs,” Minard explained.
Masks should be worn for the whole time one is in public, according to the CDC. Masks should not be placed on the neck or the forehead.
Individuals should continue to stay six feet away from one another and regularly wash their hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds as well, according to the CDC.
When removing a mask, one should touch just its ear loops or ties, then bring its outer edges toward one another before washing it, according to the CDC. Individuals should avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth as they take off a mask as well. They should also wash their hands once it is off.
More information about staying healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic may be found at https://www.winonahealth.org, https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/index.html and https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.