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Wearing cloth masks as protection

BY MARA KNAUB SUN STAFF WRITER

Now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending everyone should wear a mask when out in public, some Yuma County residents are asking about the right kind of mask, how it should be made and how often it should be washed, among other questions.

The Yuma Sun talked with Mika Naranjo, manager of infection prevention and control at Yuma Regional Medical Center, to find out the answers.

WHO SHOULD WEAR A MASK?

Naranjo noted that the updated CDC guidelines recommend that everyone wear a mask while out in the public regardless of their immune status. Using a mask is especially recommended in areas where social distancing might be difficult, such as a grocery store, pharmacy or small, crowded areas.

“This will help slow spread,” Naranjo said. “People might be walking around who are asymptomatic but could be shedding the virus. That’s why they’re recommending it.”

WHAT KIND OF MASK

However, Naranjo stressed, people should look for cloth masks and leave medical-grade masks for healthcare workers “so we have what we need to take care of our communities.”

The CDC suggests the use of simple cloth face coverings, including homemade masks, bandannas and even cut T-shirts. The agency also mentions that masks could be made with pockets for the insertion of coffee filters.

“Wearing it appropriately is important,” Naranjo said. “It should be worn over the bridge of the nose and pulled down below the chin. If you’re not wearing it over your nose, you’re risking having the mucus membranes exposed.”

The way the mask is removed is also important. People should be careful not to touch the eyes, nose or mouth when removing it.

“You should do so with clean hands, sanitized or washed with soap and water, and pulled off the ears versus what is essentially the dirtiest part, the front of the mask,” Naranjo said.

She noted that masks should be washed routinely and suggested that they’re washed when people return home every night. Washing them in a washing machine will sufficiently clean them for reuse.

SHOULD GLOVES BE WORN?

The CDC has not issued guidelines on wearing gloves, but Naranjo pointed out that if someone chooses to use gloves, they have to guard against cross contamination.

When using gloves, people should not touch their cell phones, keys or faces as this spreads germs and defeats the purpose of wearing them. Once done shopping or running errands, gloves should be removed immediately.

“It’s important, in between changing gloves, to clean hands,” she said.

KEEP UP WITH GOOD HAND HYGIENE

Naranjo also emphasized the importance of keeping up with good hand hygiene by washing hands before and after using the bathroom and sanitizing hands after high-frequency touch surfaces, such as doors and shopping carts. 

Naranjo gave a “shoutout” to the grocery stores who are routinely sanitizing shopping carts.

She also expressed appreciation to those who have donated mask coverings for hospital workers and who are now making them available to community members.

“It’s awesome how everyone has come together and made these masks. I think it’s great they’re available for the public,” she said.

For instructions on how to make sew and no-sew masks, go to www.cdc.gov.

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