To mask or not to mask

What to wear isn’t just a fashion decision anymore. Knowing what type of mask to wear when venturing out in public has become a question.


To mask or not to mask – that seems to be the question, even though Gov. Jared Polis, as of July 17, issued a statewide order for Coloradans to wear a face covering while indoors.

“Which type of mask to wear depends on what you’re trying to achieve,” said Andrea Carlstrom, Chaffee County Public Health Director and Incident Command for COVID-19. “The N95 respirators are effective for medical and first responders so they don’t contract the virus. What we have discovered is that procedural and surgical masks and cloth coverings do have the ability to limit spread and transmission of the virus among the general public. The research now indicates that wearing a cloth face covering can reduce the spread of the disease, especially when used universally within communities.”

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) there has been an increase in face mask approval since the beginning of April.

Until recently it was thought that a person was protecting others by wearing masks but the thought is now shifting. Wearing the mask may also help prevent transmission to oneself.

Bandanas also seem effective and do have an impact on limiting spread of the virus. The important thing is that the mask, whatever it’s made of, be clean, fit snuggly and be comfortable and secure.

“Some people have a hard time keeping a covering over the nose and mouth,” Carlstrom said. “It’s important to experiment with a wide variety of masks to determine what fits the best.”

Whatever type of mask you choose, keeping it clean is important so wash hands before and after putting the covering on. 

“It’s important to limit contact between hands and face (when) positioning the mask,” Carlstrom said.

Cloth masks can be machine washed and dried or hand washed and air dried. Having several masks is recommended so while one is being laundered there is another available.

“We’ve been fortunate in our community to have people making masks and providing them for others,” Carlstrom said. “There have been other efforts as well. Municipalities have been giving out I love Salida and Buena Vista bandanas and there have been a multitude of donations for masks in general so there should be no excuse at this point in our community for not having adequate face covering. However, if someone is still in need of a mask, they can submit a request on the Chaffee County website.”

Data from a recent Centers for Disease Control post states that in a Journal of the American Medical Association editorial, CDC reviewed the latest science and affirms that cloth face coverings are a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19 that could reduce the spread of the disease, particularly when used universally within communities. 

There is increasing evidence that cloth face coverings help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others.

“We are looking at whether recirculating the air one breaths out can make a person sicker,” Carlstrom said. “I don’t think we can discredit that but at the same time, I haven’t seen any research that spells that out. Until there is a vaccine or treatment for the virus, people must follow these simple public health strategies to ride out the course of COVID-19.”

These commitments of containment  are wearing a mask in public, social distancing, staying home when sick, hand washing and getting tested if you have symptoms.

“Masks are just one of several strategies that complement each other,” Carlstrom said. “We’re also about to embark upon the flu season which will complicate matters. If we all wear masks, keep them clean, stay home when sick and observe the other commitments, we will survive COVID-19.”

Facewear options in a COVID-19 world 

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