Updated Guidance on the Use of Masks and Cloth Face Coverings

In response to our evolving understanding about the spread of COVD-19, state and local health officials are now recommending residents cover their nose and mouth with cloth face coverings when leaving home for essential travel such as doctor appointments, grocery shopping, or pharmacy visits (see the press release or Friday’s Daily Public Briefing). For residents going outdoors to get exercise, face coverings are appropriate for walking, but not strenuous workouts such as running. In all cases, proper social distancing should still be observed.

Up until now, local officials have not recommended the large-scale use of face coverings, but circumstances have changed. We know from novel coronavirus research that people can be infected and may spread the virus without having symptoms, and they can be infected and may spread the virus 48 hours before developing symptoms. Many people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms and do not recognize they are infected and may unintentionally infect others.

Face coverings should not be medical masks or other similar products but include any type of breathable material that will cover the nose and mouth. For example, bandanas, fabric masks and neck gaiters are acceptable. Fabric covers and bandanas can be washed and used again. Health officials do not recommend that the public use medical masks (N-95 or surgical masks) as they are in limited supply and must be preserved for our health care workers and first responders.

Face coverings should be washed frequently with detergent and hot water and dried on a hot cycle. Ideally, wash your face covering after each use, and have a dedicated laundry bag or bin. Make sure the covering is comfortable – you don’t want to have to keep adjusting the mask, which means touching your face. Always wash your hands, or use hand sanitizer, before AND after touching your face or face coverings.

It is important to stress that face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing or frequent hand washing. However, wearing a face covering can help reduce the number of particles you exhale into the air, helping protect others if you are unknowingly infected. Furthermore, wearing a cloth face covering can provide some additional benefit by acting as a reminder for other people to keep their distance.

Hand-Sewn Mask Donations

Donating hand-sewn masks is a popular way many residents are helping fight the spread of COVID-19 from home. VMC Foundation is now accepting donations of reusable, hand-sewn masks.  These masks will be used by non-patient care staff as added protection as we face the COVID-19 crisis. Mask-making and donation instructions can be found at https://vmcfoundation.org/masks/.