If you wear a mask, be sure to wear it safely

OKEECHOBEE — If you choose to wear a mask, wear it safely, said Okeechobee County Emergency Management Director Mitch Smeykal. It’s not recommended for children under the age of 2 to wear any type of mask, he explained, but over the age of 2, if social distancing isn’t possible, maybe. “Take a look at the theme parks. Theme parks are normally crowded on a regular basis and there is a limited capacity to social-distance, so that’s why most of the theme parks are requiring you wear a mask, at least for now,” he said.

He said the CDC website does not really go into detail on why you shouldn’t put a mask on a baby, but it seems logical it would be a choking hazard and could restrict the child’s breathing. Pediatric masks for EMS purposes are different from adult masks, he said, because their bone structure is different, and their respiratory passages are not fully developed.

“Kids are usually more resilient to diseases, too,” he said. “Up until the age of 5. Chickenpox, for example, in adults can be life-threatening, but in a kid, it’s usually not. It’s usually very mild and somewhat treatable. Certain things are easier for adults to tolerate and vice versa.”

Mr. Smeykal also said it is not a good idea to drive around with a mask on. “If you want to keep outside air out of your vehicle, all you have to do is hit the “recirc” button on the climate control console, that little button that shows the air recirculating throughout the vehicle. Then you’re not getting outside air into your vehicle. The only time I would recommend somebody drive around with a mask on would be if you were sick and were in the car with somebody who wasn’t sick, or vice versa, and even then I’m not sure I would wear it in a car while I was driving.”

When asked about the 45,000 fabric masks the county is expecting to receive, he said they are going to the health department, and he believes they are earmarked for the agricultural community, such as dairies and the feed and cattle industry. Another shipment will be coming in from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the homeless. “I don’t really think they are going to get the homeless folk to wear them in 100% humidity and 85-degree temperatures, but that’s just my opinion,” he said.

He said there are varying opinions in the scientific community on how much cloth masks might help.

“First of all, you would have to wear them right. Coming from a health care background and 30 years in the military, I see a lot of people not wearing them right. If your nose is sticking out, you’re not wearing it right.” In addition, he said if you have any type of respiratory problem, the mask can make it harder for you to breathe. Another problem is people are CONSTANTLY touching their faces to adjust the mask, and we don’t want you to touch your face. If you can maintain social distance and wash your hands, you may not need a mask, he said. “If it makes you feel better, wear it. Is it really doing anything for you? No, it’s protecting the other person from you. As long as you are not having difficulty breathing, if it makes you feel more comfortable, then go ahead and wear one, but don’t put one on your baby.”

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