In efforts to limit the continuing spread of the coronavirus, patients, family members, visitors, staff and vendors must wear a face mask at all times while in the Baptist Health Richmond location.

“Since people can spread the virus before symptoms start, or even if they never have symptoms, wearing a face mask is one of the most practical ways to reduce the spread,” Greg D. Gerard, Baptist Health Richmond president, said in a statement sent on Monday.

According to the release, patients and visitors should wear their own cloth face masks in order to preserve medical-grade masks, such as surgical masks and N95 respirators, for health care personnel and first responders.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges that select individuals are not required to wear face masks: children younger than 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove a mask without assistance.

Masks are stated to be proven effective, quoting pulmonologist and Chief Medical Officer Erica Gregonis, who said the behavior of wearing personal protective equipment will become the new normal.

"Wearing masks has been proven very effective in reducing transmission of the coronavirus,” Gregonis said.

“It’s a behavior that may become the new normal. A single cloth mask can protect you from someone else’s viral droplets, and it can protect others from you if you’re infected and you don’t know it yet.”

About cloth face masks

Cloth face masks are available from a variety of suppliers and manufacturers online and in some local brick-and-mortar stores. An alternative to purchasing masks is to make them at home with the aid of do-it-yourself videos and instructions that are readily available online.

Fabric that is 100% cotton and tightly woven is the best for cloth masks. Avoid knit fabrics, such as jersey T-shirts, because they create holes when stretched.

Cloth masks should:

• Include multiple layers of fabric

• Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face

• Be secured with ties or ear loops

• Allow for breathing without restriction

• Be machine washable

If desired, coffee filters or HVAC filters, may be inserted to provide another layer of protection to the cloth mask. Coffee filters should be replaced after each use. HVAC filters are washable, but manufacturers warn they are intended for single use only.

Wearing face masks

The CDC recommends face masks be worn in public, especially in places where physical distancing – staying at least 6 feet away from another person – is difficult.

Baptist Health asks patients, visitors and staff put their face masks on before they enter one of its facilities and keep it on until they are in their vehicle about to leave.

Those wearing a face mask should avoid touching the face or the mask, and should ensure that the mask covers both the nose and mouth at all times.

Removing face masks

When it’s time to remove a mask:

Open a resealable bag in order to easily place the mask inside it. The bag also aids in minimizing contact between the mask and other surfaces.

Wash hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer for 20 seconds or longer.

Remove the face mask one ear loop or one tie at a time, taking precautions to avoid touching the face, eyes or nose.

Fold the mask in half like a greeting card, making sure the side that faces the mouth is on the outside.

Place the mask inside the resealable bag and store it until it can be cleaned.

After handling the mask, wash hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer for 20 seconds or longer.

Cleaning face masks

There are no definitive rules concerning how often face masks should be cleaned because it depends on the frequency of use, according to the CDC.

Clean face masks if they become soiled and if there is a possibility there has been contact with someone symptomatic or if someone sneezed or coughed within close proximity.

It may be most practical to purchase or make several face masks to ensure that a clean, dry mask is always available.

Remove filters before cleaning. Cloth face masks may be laundered in hot water in a washing machine and tumble dried on high heat. To protect elastic loops or cloth ties, face masks may be washed and dried in a mesh laundry bag or in a pillowcase tied into a knot or secured with a hair elastic or rubber band to secure it.

Those who are extra cautious may iron masks on the cotton or linen setting to kill any remaining germs.

In other coronavirus related news, there were five new cases reported Tuesday. This brings Madison County's total of confirmed cases to 78 with 53 reported to have been recovered.

Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter at @TaylorSixRR.

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