The Mask: How to navigate the new normal


In the thick of the COVID crisis, we are constantly bombarded with confusing, and at times, scary news about what to do, what not to do, what to eat, how to go outside of the house, what precautions to take - the list is endless! 

But one thing is for sure - stepping out without wearing a mask is unsafe, since wearing masks help prevent the spread of infection by filtering or deflecting your breath so that your droplets don’t spread everywhere. Every time we speak, eat, yawn, sneeze or cough, we release micro-droplets from our nose and mouth which contain microorganisms. With COVID-19 and various other airborne diseases on the rise, the least we can do to protect ourselves and our neighbours is to wear a mask. This is important because there are some people who have COVID-19 who are asymptomatic carriers which means they don’t have any symptoms but they are able to spread COVID-19 to others.  If everyone wears a mask, we can help reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

No matter which masks we wear, they lose their efficacy if the masks are worn incorrectly or disposed of in a way that it puts others at risk. A mask is for protection and there are very clear guidelines by the CDC as well as WHO on how to put on a mask, how to wear it, when to dispose of it and how to make sure disposal is responsible & risk-free.

Here are some guidelines, detailed by The World Health Organization on how to handle a non-medical fabric mask - 

  1. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water/sanitize using a 70% alcohol hand rub before touching the mask.
  2. Inspect the mask carefully to check if it is damaged, dirty or not suitable for wear.
  3. Adjust the mask so that it fits your face perfectly without gaps at the side or top, near the nose.
  4. Make sure the mask covers your nose, mouth & chin.
  5. Avoid touching the mask, especially the front portion covering the nose and mouth.
  6. Wash hands properly/sanitize using a 70% alcohol hand rub before taking off the mask.
  7. Remove the mask by the straps or ties fastened behind the ears or back of the head.
  8. Pull the mask clear from your face.
  9. Put away the mask in a clean, resealable waterproof cover/container where it stays dry and clean till you next plan to re-use it.
  10. When taking out the mask from storage, hold it by straps or ties, avoid touching the cloth portion.
  11. Wash masks in water (hot is preferable) and soap solution and dry completely before reuse.
  12. Wash hands properly/sanitize using a 70% alcohol hand rub after removing the mask.

Some common mistakes we may end up making when wearing masks are also detailed here. Let’s try and avoid these to ensure both our safety & others’.

  1. Don’t use damaged, wet or dirty masks.
  2. If the mask is loose or has gaps, please replace it.
  3. Don’t wear the mask below the nose or below the chin.
  4. Don’t remove the mask when there are people within 1 metre of you.
  5. Avoid using masks which are difficult to breathe through. Choose masks through which breathing is normal, not laboured.
  6. Masks should never be shared. Always use and wash your own masks.

Medical masks have to be handled a little differently, considering they are often used by doctors, nurses and caregivers.

Here are some guidelines, detailed by The World Health Organization on how to handle a medical mask - 

  1. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water/sanitize using a 70% alcohol hand rub before touching the mask.
  2. Inspect the mask carefully to check if it is damaged, and has tears or holes.
  3. Find the top side, where the metal piece or stiff edge is.
  4. Ensure that the coloured side faces outwards. The fainter colour should cover your face.
  5. Place the stiff edge/metal nose grip over your nose and mould it to shape so that it covers your nose, mouth & chin.
  6. Adjust the mask so that it fits your face perfectly without gaps at the side or top, near the nose.
  7. Avoid touching the mask, especially the front portion covering the nose and mouth.
  8. Wash hands properly/sanitize using a 70% alcohol hand rub before taking off the mask.
  9. Remove your mask by the straps or ties fastened behind the ears or back of the head.
  10. Make sure the mask stays away from your person and any surfaces when you remove it.
  11. Discard the mask immediately after use, preferably into a closed bin.
  12. Wash hands properly/sanitize using a 70% alcohol hand rub after removing the mask.

Masks are a protective measure. However, they alone cannot prevent COVID infection. If you are sick, please stay home and do not venture out. Even if one is healthy, it is advisable not to step out and expose oneself to areas which could potentially see widespread transmissions like public transport or large markets. “Healthy people” could still be asymptomatic carriers and can spread COVID to those at higher risk. If you’re not at risk yourself, do think of others in the community. The less we place ourselves at risk and maintain social distancing, the faster we would be able to flatten the curve. 

A Business Insider report says that countries like Taiwan & South Korea were able to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus early mainly through social distancing measures that were enforced, but more importantly, largely followed diligently by citizens.

Please do comment to let us know your thoughts about wearing masks and any issues that you have faced. Do share your views on how you have been able to deal better with this pandemic.


We are Saathi. Saathi is a purpose-driven manufacturing company that makes eco-friendly hygiene products. Founded by graduates from MIT (US) and Nirma, we are innovators in the use of alternative materials and zero-waste production. Our mission is to create hygiene products that are good for the body, environment, and community.

 

 

You can access these resources at - https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/when-and-how-to-use-masks
Also, check out the Business Insider article here - https://www.businessinsider.in/business/news/western-countries-only-seem-capable-of-social-distancing-when-their-governments-have-forced-them/articleshow/74778390.cms


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