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Covid-19: Is it time to wear face protection in public?

More people are taking it upon themselves to wear masks and face coverings
Posted at 6:17 PM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-03 18:17:05-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW-TV) — Pressure has increased on the White House and CDC to issue new requirements for wearing face coverings in public to help prevent the spread of covid-19.

During a press briefing on Friday April 3, President Donald Trump announced new guidance from the White House and CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) advising voluntary use of "non-medical cloth based" face coverings. Surgical masks and N95 masks need to be reserved for health care workers, said the President.

Many are already taking it upon themselves to wear masks while heading to places like grocery stores.

"If people have some idea about protective behavior that can be useful, they don't need to wait for the White House to recommend it. They can just start doing it themselves . . . like wearing a mask," said Erie County Commissioner of Health, Dr. Gale Burstein.

AMR ambulance crews are also being asked to wear surgical masks during their shifts. The crews will change into N95 masks when dealing with a covid-19 situation. Many of the crews are now wearing the masks routinely, even when just driving around. AMR said the decision was made after consulting with New York State and analyzing its supply of personal protective equipment (PPE).

HOW EFFECTIVE ARE MASKS IN PROTECTING YOU?

It is important to know that masks only offer you added protection, they don't make you a "super hero," explained AMR Regional Director, Chris Stawasz. "People should be staying home and really listening to those quarantine advisories," said Stawasz.

  • It is important to remember that masks do not protect your eyes, which can be a source of entry by the virus.
  • Make sure you clean your hands thoroughly (preferably using a high-alcohol based hand sanitizer) before handling a mask.
  • Don't touch the front of the mask.
  • Do not reuse a disposable mask. It must be thrown out after it is worn.

Dr. Burstein said, even if you wear a mask, you still need to practice social distancing, proper hand washing, and staying home. "I don't want people with masks getting a false sense of security," said the health commissioner.

Masks and gloves should be considered as options when shopping for food because there is a higher chance grocery cart handles and products have been touched by other people. The health department recommends wiping down anything you buy with a disinfectant.

The issue of the public using masks creates a touchy situation because there is already a shortage of personal protective equipment for medical staff. Officials don't want to see a "run" on medical masks that are urgently needed in hospitals.

As an alternative, Dr. Burstein said home-made masks are an option with some considerations. Depending on the type of material they are made of, home-made masks can capture more dust, germs, and viruses in the fabric. That is why it is very important to wash them after every use!

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT MASKS can be found here on the CDC website.