It’s been more than two weeks since Michigan residents have been required to wear masks in public spaces, but some still have questions about when and how to wear a mask.
Mask use was initially deemed unnecessary by state and federal officials at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis in February and early March.
One reason: A nationwide shortage of masks for hospitals and health-care providers led to a fear that encouraging mask use in the general public would exacerbate the shortage. While that shortage is still a concern, officials are now pushing cloth masks for the public.
Another factor for the change in stance: Growing recognition that asymptomic or pre-symptomic people with coronavirus are contagious and appear to be a major factor in spread of the disease.
“We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“ asymptomatic ”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“ pre-symptomatic ”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms,” the federal Centers for Disease Control said in a April 20 statement. “This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity — for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing — even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (eg, grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. ”
Masks do not provide full protection from coronavirus, experts say. However, they do offer some protection – and combined with social distancing and good hand hygiene, masks can help diminish the rate of COVID-19 contagion.
If 80% to 90% of the public were to wear a mask, COVID-19 infection rates would drop significantly and the pandemic eventually would fizzle out, concludes a new study headed by De Kai, an American computer scientist with joint appointments at UC Berkeley’s International Computer Science Institute and at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
That study says mask use is why Asian countries such as Hong Kong and Singapore have lower rates of COVID cases.
Below some quick tips about what’s required and proper use of a mask.
Masks are required for public indoor enclosed spaces.
Michigan is requiring people to wear cloth face coverings when they enter enclosed public spaces. The state also is requiring employers to provide at least cloth face coverings to their employees.
“People won’t have to wear face coverings when they’re taking a walk in the neighborhood, but when they go to the grocery store, they should be wearing one,” said a press release from the governor’s office.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued the executive order on April 24 and it went into effect on April 26. Under the order, no one will be subject to criminal penalty for going without a mask.
Whitmer’s order came four days after the CDC issued its recommendation for use of cloth masks.
What can be used as a mask
Any cloth covering of the nose and mouth will do, including a scarf or bandanna. The more layers in a mask, the better, experts say.
For those who don’t sew, there are numerous online tutorials about how to create mask without sewing. Researchers at Cambridge University found that cotton T-shirts and cotton pillowcases are the best materials for making DIY face masks, due to their ability to capture small particles yet remain breathable.
Make sure the mask fits well so you can minimize the need to adjust it when you are wearing it.
Wash your hands before putting on a mask and after taking it off.
Wash your hands thoroughly before and after using a mask to prevent the spread of germs. Once you’ve washed your hands, put the mask on and off touching only the ties or the ear loops.
Don’t touch the front of the mask.
The point of the mask is to trap germs, so you don’t want to be touching the front of it – and you especially don’t want to touch the mask and then touch other parts of your face, such as your eyes.
Incidentally, one value of the mask is to keep people from touching their mouth and nose while out in public, which could introduce the virus into their body.
Make sure your nose and mouth are covered.
A common misstep is to cover only the mouth. For the mask to be effective, both the nose and the mouth need to be covered.
A mask is necessary outside when you’re within six feet of others.
A mask is not necessary when on a solo outdoor walk, run or bike trip. However, going without a mask outdoors means you need to stay six feet away from those you encounter.
If you’re using a crowded trail or outdoor space, a mask is recommended.
No masks for children under 2.
Children under 2 or anybody else who cannot put on or take off a mask on their own should not be wearing one.
Wash masks frequently and store in a paper bag.
Think of it like underwear. If you’re wearing masks on a regular basis, have several so you can rotate and put in the laundry at the end of the day. They can be hand- or machine-washed, and dried by air or machine.
Masks should be stored in a brown paper bag or other place that keeps them dry and relatively protected from germs.
In addition to washing hands regularly and not touching your face, officials recommend practicing social distancing, assuming anyone may be carrying the virus.
Health officials say you should be staying at least 6 feet away from others and working from home, if possible.
Use disinfecting wipes or disinfecting spray cleaners on frequently-touched surfaces in your home (door handles, faucets, countertops) and carry hand sanitizer with you when you go into places like stores.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has also issued an executive order requiring people to wear face coverings over their mouth and nose while inside enclosed, public spaces.
Read all of MLive’s coverage on the coronavirus at mlive.com/coronavirus.
Additional information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.
Complete coverage at mlive.com/coronavirus
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