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To Mask or Not to Mask? That is the Question

Child’s mask made by Noble County resident Ashley McElfresh

By Anne Chlovechok

Information, both accurate and inaccurate, about COVID-19 is rife in the media, and on everyone’s Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. What should you believe?

People have wanted The Journal to publish a story on whether or not we should all be wearing face masks in public for a couple weeks. I’ve hesitated because I didn’t feel I had enough information. There were conflicting opinions, and I’ve been very careful to only publish reliable information I’ve gotten from the Noble County Health Department, the Noble County Emergency Management Agency, Governor DeWine’s office, the WHO or the CDC.

As far as what to do about masks, the jury was out.

Some experts said wear them if you are sick to protect others. Other experts said don’t wear them if you’re healthy, because wearing a mask, like wearing gloves, could give you a false sense of security and keep you from taking other  necessary precautions to avoid contracting COVID-19.

This weekend, the Centers for Disease Control, the CDC, took a decisive stand based on new information. Remember this is a new virus and therefore much of what is being said and advised is guesswork based on how similar viruses have behaved.

The CDC has concluded that there may be more asymptomatic people out there than previously believed; meaning more people who are carrying the virus but who are not showing symptoms may be walking around thinking they are healthy, but in reality spreading the virus to those they encounter.

For this reason, the CDC now recommends that healthy people going out in public to places where it is difficult to stay the recommended six feet apart should wear a mask. (By the way, that six feet is a guideline, but it is interesting to know that a sneeze may travel 10 feet or more at up to 100 mph.)

The CDC reminds people not to use N95 respirators or surgical masks, which should be reserved for healthcare workers. Fabric masks will do the trick, especially when combined with the steps we’ve already been taking to protect ourselves, such as staying at least six feet away from people we don’t live with; washing our hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water; cleaning surfaces such as counters, phones, keyboards, car door handles, steering wheels, gear shifts, chair arms, etc. often, and taking your temperature daily to be sure you don’t have a fever. See Noble County Health Commissioner Shawn Ray’s story in today’s Journal to learn about COVID-19 testing in Noble County.

Masks made by Noble County resident Kim Archer

A number of Noble County residents have been busily making masks to share with healthcare pros, for whom a cloth mask is better than nothing, especially when used under a face shield such as the ones being made by local high school teachers (see Jeff Harrison’s story in today’s Journal), and by the public. Some of these include Debbie Buckey, Denitra Warner, Ashley McElfresh, Kim Archer, Jamie Jones and her granddaughter, and many others. Their generosity is much appreciated by those they are helping.

Shirley Serdy of Caldwell recommended a mask pattern available from the OSU extension.  Samantha Schott of OSU Extension said the pattern is actually one from Joann Fabric, and is used by 4-H members. Google OSU extension mask pattern, or Joann Fabrics mask pattern. You need to be able to sew to make this one. A simple no-sewing needed pattern can be found by Googling how to make a mask from a tee shirt and tights.

Keep going day by day. We’ll get through this together.

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