As states reopen from stay-at-home orders, many are now requiring people to wear face coverings or Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in most public spaces to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Coronavirus spreads when an infected person speaks, sneezes, or coughs within 6 feet of others. You may have the virus and spread it even if you feel well. So it’s important to cover your nose and mouth when outside your home.

Wearing a PPE mask or cloth face covering can slow the spread of COVID-19 by limiting the release of virus into the air. It also reinforces physical distancing, and shows you care about the health of others.

A recent study published in Health Affairs, for example, compared the COVID-19 growth rate before and after mask mandates in 15 states and the District of Columbia. It found that mask mandates led to a slowdown in daily COVID-19 growth rate, which became more apparent over time. In one simulation, researchers predicted that 80 percent of the population wearing masks would do more to reduce COVID-19 spread than a strict lockdown.

There are different kinds of PPE masks and face coverings, and proper ways to wear them.

Who needs a mask?

  • Anyone going outside their home
  • Workers in customer-facing industries
  • Workers in offices, factories, or any group setting
  • Doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals
  • Other workers, as dictated by industry guidance

When should you wear a mask?

You should wear a mask or face covering whenever you’ll be around someone you don’t live with, including:

  • In any indoor public space
  • When waiting in line
  • When getting health care
  • On public transportation or when ride-sharing
  • At work, when near others or moving through common areas
  • Outdoors, if you can’t stay 6 feet away from others

When can I take my mask off in these settings?

There are times when it’s okay to take your mask or face covering off, such as:

  • When eating or drinking
  • If a hearing-impaired person needs to read your lips
  • If wearing a face covering imposes a risk to you at work – for example, if it could get caught in machinery
  • When you’re not sharing a common area, room or enclosed space with others
  • When you are getting a service to the nose or face
  • When outdoors in public and can stay six feet from others

Kinds of Personal Protective Equipment masks

There are many kinds of masks, but these are the 3 most common.

Cloth mask or face covering – It is effective when combined with keeping a 6-foot distance from others. Wash in the laundry or by hand between uses.

Surgical mask – Some non-medical workers also wear surgical PPE masks for disposability and fluid protection. Replace and dispose of it according to workplace guidelines.

N95 respirator mask – This is a PPE mask with a respirator that blocks 95% of particles that are otherwise inhaled. Start with a new mask every day.

For more details, or if you’d like to learn more about Personal Protective Equipment awareness and COVID-19 safety, please refer to the source links below as well as your online training provided by HR.

Sources: Source 1; Source 2

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