Tips on how to use a non-medical mask as we enter Stage 2
OTTAWA -- As Eastern Ontario moves into the second phase of re-opening, you may find yourself in public more often and you may find it more difficult to keep a minimum distance from others.
To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, you should wear a mask, says Doctor Abdu Sharkawy, an infectious disease specialist.
"We know that it’s going to become increasingly difficult for people to maintain distancing of more than 6 feet, as restrictions start to ease," he tells CTV News Ottawa.
On Tuesday, the World Health Organization clarified their position on asymptomatic spread; they are saying it is possible for someone who is not showing symptoms to spread the virus, if they are infected. That, says Dr. Sharkawy isn’t the only danger.
"The problem is you may be pre-symptomatic, which means you don’t show any symptoms in the period of time before you become truly manifesting the disease itself…You can transmit the virus to anyone."
When keeping a safe distance in public isn’t possible, you can still help prevent the spread.
"If you’re infected with COVID-19, wearing a mask protects others," Dr. Sharkawy says.
WHAT’S THE RIGHT WAY TO WEAR A MASK? HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU WASH IT?
Dr. Sharkawy says it depends on the material and how often you wear it.
"If it’s a good cotton material that’s fairly strong, then it’s something that can probably withstand being wash fairly regularly," Dr. Sharkawy says.
You can wash it daily, but it’s not something you just throw into the washing machine.
"You should be using rubber gloves. When you’re washing your mask, you should be doing it by hand so that you can use hot water and soap to actually gently and thoroughly scrub the inside of the surface of your mask."
DO FILTER INSERTS OR PAPER TOWELS WORK?
Dr. Sharkawy says yes, but, "You want to balance the filtration and protective effectiveness of the mask with comfort." Meaning that, if you’re not comfortable while wearing it for an extended time, you probably won’t want to keep it on.
CAN I HANG MY MASK FROM THE CAR MIRROR?
Out with the air-fresheners and in with the masks! We’ve all seen car mirrors decorated with masks lately, but that’s not a good spot for them, Dr. Sharkawy says.
"You really want to think of your mask as something that is potentially a small Petri dish of disease that you are in the best position to control."
HOW DO I STORE MY MASK? HOW DO I PUT IT ON SAFELY?
It’s best to store your mask in a dry, zipped, plastic bag away from heat. Before you take it out of the bag, wash your hands.
Then, explains Dr. Sharkawy, "Be very careful to pull it out just with the elastic strings. For example, I’m going to take off my glasses, I'm going to grab the mask by the elastic parts, I’m going to close my eyes and put it on my face only touching the strings."
When taking off the mask, you always want to make sure to wash your hands first, grab it only by the elastics, and then put it back in the plastic bag,
"I'm going to lean forward, then I’m going to very carefully just bend the mask to try and not touch the outside or inside of the mask; I’m going to open up the plastic bag, and I’m going to place it very carefully inside."
Always be careful to only touch the strings, and never the mask itself, reminds Dr. Sharkawy.
CAN I RE-USE DISPOSABLE MASKS?
Dr. Sharkawy explains that anything meant to be worn just once probably isn’t durable enough to be re-worn. You should toss it out.
KEEP DOING WHAT WE’VE BEEN DOING
Dr. Sharkawy reminds us to maintain physical distancing and keep up with our efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19.
"We don’t know if we’re going to become COVID positive tomorrow, or the day after so, until this pandemic is fully under control and it ends, we have to assume that the measures we’re taking for distancing, masking and everything else are going to be for our benefit, and we shouldn’t let our guard down."