The CDC, the Alabama Department of Public Health, the Governor, and just about every other governmental agency and official recommends the wearing of cloth face masks during the current COVID-19 pandemic. But why? What kind of protection does a cloth face mask offer? If I’m not sick, why do I still need to cover my nose and mouth when I’m going over to my mother or grandmother’s house?
When you are sick, you know enough to stay away from others until you are well again. However, with coronavirus (COVID-19) it is possible for a person to have the virus and not be sick. A person who has the coronavirus and is entirely free of any symptoms of illness is known as “asymptomatic.” A person who is asymptomatic can still transmit the virus to others who may not be so lucky. (See CDC’s webpage about How COVID-19 spreads.) People age 65 and older are among the most vulnerable to becoming ill if they contract the virus, so here’s how you can help protect the older adults in your life.
A properly-worn cloth face mask (covering the mouth AND nose) can offer two zones of combat against the coronavirus:
COMBAT ZONE 1: KEEP DROPLETS FROM ENTERING NOSE & MOUTH
When YOU are wearing a cloth face mask covering your nose and mouth, the mask is providing a physical barrier to prevent the droplets of others from freely entering your nose and mouth, which is where the majority of transmission occurs from person to person. If you have been wearing your face mask around others who are not wearing a face mask, especially if they have been within 6 feet of you, you can confidently assume that those people’s droplets are on the outer surface of your cloth face mask. So after removing your face mask, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, and wash the face mask. Avoid touching your face. It is also recommended that you use a safe hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol content) for an extra level of protection.
COMBAT ZONE 2: KEEP DROPLETS FROM TRAVELING AROUND FREELY
When OTHERS are wearing a cloth face mask covering their nose and mouth in your presence, the mask is providing a physical barrier preventing the wearer’s own droplets from expelling out the nose and mouth and traveling too far into the surrounding air. Unseen droplets are expelled regularly during normal talking, up to about 6 feet (ergo social distancing of 6 feet). When shouting, sneezing or coughing, a person’s droplets can travel even farther! The cloth face mask stops many of those expelled droplets or greatly reduces the traveling distance of droplets that may make it through the face mask barrier.
When you and others are BOTH wearing cloth face masks, the chances of transmitting COVID-19 to one another is reduced drastically.
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