Properly wearing a mask is one way Phelps Health employees say residents can help protect themselves and others from the spread of illnesses, such as COVID-19.
COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets, and masks are a simple barrier to help prevent a person’s respiratory droplets from spreading to other people. Masks provide people and those around them with protection.
Protecting their families, loved ones and others is why many healthcare workers at Phelps Health say they wear masks.
"I wear a mask for those I care for and those I care about,” said Arslan Shaukat, MD, a cardiologist with the Phelps Health Medical Group.
Beena Green, MD, who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN) with the Phelps Health Medical Group, said wearing a mask is especially important for the patients she sees.
"I wear my mask to protect the lives of babies, mamas, grandmas and people in growing families everywhere,” she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone age 2 and older wear a mask in public and when they are around people who do not live in their household.
According to Phelps Health, people should wear a mask, even if they do not feel sick. According to the CDC, several studies have shown that people with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic (never develop symptoms) and who are pre-symptomatic (not yet showing symptoms) can spread the virus that causes COVID-19 to others.
By wearing a mask, community members can help protect others around them who may be at an increased risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19.
Melissa Johnston, a nurse with Phelps Health Surgical Services, said she wears a mask because her mother, who is 97, lives at home with her.
“Wear your mask and wash your hands. Do whatever you can to protect others,” Johnston said. “It's the easiest thing you can do.”
Some masks are more effective at protecting people than others. According to Phelps Health, masks should be made of tightly woven fabrics, such as cotton, and worn over a person’s mouth and nose. They should have two to three layers and should fit snugly around your nose and chin with no large gaps around the sides of your face.
Cloth masks that can be washed and reused as well as non-medical disposable face masks that are used one time and then thrown away, are types of masks the public can wear. Medical or surgical masks, as well as N-95 respirators, should be saved for healthcare workers and first responders to prevent supply shortages.
“I wear my mask because I believe it’s the best way to stop…the pandemic,” said Lindy Hardwick, a chaplain at Phelps Health. “I wear it for the patients here, my family, for myself and for the community.”
Masks should not be worn by children younger than 2 years old, anyone with trouble breathing and anyone who is unable to remove the mask without assistance.
Wearing a mask is not a substitute for other precautionary guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In addition to wearing a mask, Phelps Health recommends the public follow these healthy habits:
· Stay six feet apart from other people who do not live in your household.
· Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
· Avoid crowded places and close contact with others not living in your household.
· Stay home if you feel sick or have symptoms of COVID-19.
To learn more about masks and COVID-19, visit phelpshealth.org.