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Cover Your Face in Public Now During COVID-19? Here’s the DIY Mask.

March 31, 2020

Not too long ago, the nation’s top medical experts were discouraging the use of N95 masks during the COVID-19 pandemic by anyone other than medical personnel.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization each said only people with COVID-19 and those caring for them should wear masks. Medical personnel, obviously, should be first in line for protective masks. But as the virus surges in the Northeast, is it time for people to consider making their own makeshift masks?

“As we move into a more communal spread,” says Keith Grant, Hartford HealthCare’s director of infection prevention, “the stance needs to change as we have done at Hartford Healthcare, where we recently introduced all members of the hospital community to wear a mask.

The CDC recently softened its stance. In recommendations that caregivers wear a mask when in the same room with someone ill with COVID-19 who can’t wear a mask, perhaps because it causes breathing difficulties, the CDC included this note:

“During a public health emergency, face masks may be reserved for healthcare workers. You may need to improvise a face mask using a scarf or bandana.”

DIY Facemask

Now the CDC and the White House say everyone should wear a non-medical mask in public. If you wore a mask in the past you might have been signaling to those around you that you, in fact, might be infected. A mask essentially protects other people from droplets from your respiratory tract. No studies have shown that masking the public reduces infections. But it’s certainly logical to think that a mask might offer a healthy wearer some protection from infection.

How to Properly Remove Protective Gloves (and Not Leave Them In Store Parking Lots)

A scarf, then, or bandana or T-shirt? Maybe. In China and Hong Kong, people were shown how to make masks from paper towels. Crafters with sewing-machine skills have begun making their own, often donating them to healthcare systems for employees not providing care to patients. Joann Fabrics, for one, offers a blueprint for a denim face mask, rated for “intermediate” skill level. (Click here. For the CDC’s tutorial, click here. )

Even if you have a homemade cloth mask, a proper fit is essential — and often elusive. (Here’s how the CDC recommends putting on and taking off a mask.) It’s doubtful a DIY mask can hurt. But do not reduce the supply of desperately needed N95 masks by trying to buy one. Save those for the healthcare professionals. And stay home so you’ll rarely need a mask.

Not feeling well? Call your healthcare provider for guidance and try to avoid going directly to an emergency department or urgent care center, as this could increase the chances of the disease spreading.

For the latest information on the coronavirus, visit www.hartfordhealthcare.org/coronavirus

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