'Wear a mask' local, state and federal officials say

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In one of the latest precautions to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, health officials at all levels are now recommending the general public use cloth face masks.

“In accordance with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control, a voluntary use of a simple cloth face covering of the nose and mouth, when out in public settings, is recommended by the Huntington County Health Department,” said Thomas J. Ringenberg, D.O., Huntington County Health Officer. “This will help reduce the viral aerosol for non-symptomatic people, and thus reduces the spread of the COVID-19 virus.”

According to Ringenberg, the cloth face coverings health officials recommend are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators.

“Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance,” Ringenberg said.

Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) commissioner Dr. Kristina Box says there aren’t enough N-95 and surgical masks for the 6.6 million Hoosiers in the state. The cloth face coverings are able to be made at home by both sew and no-sew methods. Instructions for the masks can be found on the CDC’s website here.

Rep. Jim Banks, who represents Huntington in Congress, adds that the cloth face coverings are not a substitute for other safety measures.

“This recommendation is not a substitute for existing guidance on maintaining 6-feet of physical distance and washing your hands,” Banks stated in a news release. “Those measures continue to be critical.”

Recommendations from the CDCThe CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, in places like grocery stores, pharmacies, and especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

The CDC also advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.

Cloth face coverings should fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face, be secured with ties or ear loops, include multiple layers of fabric, allow for breathing without restriction and be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.

“Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure,” the CDC suggests to all.

Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

The CDC says cloth masks should be routinely washed depending on the frequency of use and adds that a washing machine should suffice in properly washing a face covering.

“Individuals should be careful not to touch their eyes, nose, and mouth when removing their face covering and wash hands immediately after removing,” the CDC guidelines warn.