CDC: Cover your face in public to protect others

Looks like it’s time to “cowboy up.”

A new recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) came out on Friday, encouraging people who don’t have symptoms of the COVID-19 virus to cover their nose and mouth in public. A simple bandanna, worn in the style cowboys use to protect themselves from the dust of the trail (or to hide their identity when robbing a train in old westerns) will do the trick. Or sew a fabric mask using one of the many patterns now available online.

NOTE: Anyone who has symptoms should not be out in public, period.

The important thing to remember: The bandanna, scarf or cloth mask will NOT protect you from the virus. But it could protect someone else from getting the virus from you.

The CDC study of the virus indicates it is likely being spread by people who have no symptoms and don’t even know they are infected. A bit of cloth can keep droplets of moisture that leave your mouth or nose from landing on someone else.

The CDC website explains: “We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity – for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing – even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

“It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus. CDC is additionally advising 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 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 cloth face coverings recommended 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.”

Covering your face is not a substitute for the other measures used to control the spread of COVID-19. It is still important to stay home as much as possible; wash your hands frequently; avoid gatherings of 10 people or more; and, maintain the recommended “social distance” space of at least six feet between yourself and others when you leave your home. Wearing a cloth face mask, scarf or bandanna is just one more tool to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

One thing to note: If you are an essential worker and have to leave the house for your job, you will need multiple scarfs or cloth masks so that you can wear a clean one every day. Whether you use a mask, scarf or bandanna, be sure to wash it each time you use it, and dry on high heat. If you can hang it in the sunshine to dry, that’s even better.

The CDC recommendations are voluntary.

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