The Coronavirus pandemic is requiring all of us to find ways to protect ourselves. So much information is coming out daily on the news that sometimes it is hard to decipher it all.

It is hard to know the right thing to do when so many people have differing opinions. Using information from the World Health Organization, The Center for Disease Control and The California Department of Public Health, we will try to make sense of the overwhelming amount of information being presented to us during this unsettling time.

While the CDC continues to study the spread and effects of Coronavirus across the United States, we now know that many individuals with the disease may lack symptoms and even those who eventually develop symptoms are able to transmit the virus to others without even knowing they are infected.

What is asymptomatic transmission?

This means that the virus can spread amongst people just by being in close proximity. Even if you are not experiencing specific Coronavirus symptoms, you may be spreading the disease through speaking, coughing or sneezing.

It is still extremely important to wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face and eyes, but in order to help stop the spread, the CDC recommends wearing face coverings in public settings when it is hard to maintain social distancing.

Face Coverings Guidance from Los Angeles County Department of Public Health

According to the Los Angeles County Public Department of Public Health:

Everyone is asked to wear a face covering when they are interacting with others who are not members of their household in public and private spaces. Face coverings are an additional tool that individuals should use to help slow the spread of COVID-19, but does not replace other social distancing requirements.

Make sure to wear your mask when you’re out in public, for example at the grocery store, pharmacy, or any time you are in a group. Keep in mind, it is still critical to maintain the 6 feet distancing recommendations, but if you cannot for any reason, please wear a mask.

What kind of mask do I need?

So what kind of mask should you wear? It is not necessary to spend a lot of money or even money at all. Cloth face coverings made at home from common materials at low cost can be used. Cotton, silk or linen can be used, as well as, t-shirts, sweatshirts, scarves or towels.

Regardless of the type you choose, make sure it wraps around the lower face covering the nose and mouth. The cloth face coverings being recommended are NOT surgical masks or N-95 masks. These surgical and N-95 masks are critical supplies and must be available for our healthcare workers and first responders who are working round the clock assisting those who are ill.

How should I care for a mask/cloth face covering?

You should try to wash your cloth face coverings after each use or daily. Place your masks in a bag or bin until they can be washed with hot water and detergent.

Throw away any masks that:

  • Do not cover the nose and mouth
  • Are stretched out or damaged
  • Have holes or tears in the anywhere on the mask

View the World Health Organization’s pdf on How to Wear a Medical Mask Safely:

Additional suggestions to help protect yourself:

  • Before putting on a mask, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.
  • Avoid touching the mask while using it. If you do touch it, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not reuse single-use masks.
  • To remove the mask you should remove it from behind (do not touch the front of the mask); discard immediately in a closed bin; clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • DO NOT discard masks in parking lots or where others may come in contact with it.

Please use the link below from the CDC and U.S. Surgeon General to see how to make your own mask:

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About the Author

Dr. Trevan Fischer

Dr. Trevan D. Fischer is an Assistant Professor of Surgical Oncology at Saint John’s Cancer Institute. He is also the Assistant Program Director of the Complex Surgical Oncology Fellowship program at the Saint John’s Cancer Institute. Learn More About Dr. Trevan Fischer.

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