Now into May, and with Hood River County looking to reopen, “it will be vital for masks to be used as we interact with people outside our own family circle,” said Hood River Environmental Health Supervisor Mike Matthews on May 13. “As Oregon is reopening and restrictions are being lifted on businesses and public spaces, it may be difficult to ensure that you can stay six feet away from others at all times. The public is asked to use cloth, paper or disposable face coverings in public.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that people wear a cloth mask in public settings where social distancing is difficult — like grocery stores and pharmacies — at the beginning of April. Hood River County Health Department endorsed that recommendation in an April 6 press release, because “face masks will help slow the spread of COVID-19 if they are widely used as they may help prevent people who are asymptomatically infected from transmitting the disease unknowingly.”
When masks are unavailable, shawls, scarves, bandannas or any cotton material that covers the nose and mouth can be worn instead.
The health department has warned that masks are not a substitute for handwashing and to avoid gatherings.
“Adding this additional level of protection is in response to those who are infected with the virus but show no symptoms or mild symptoms,” said a press release.
But how to properly wear a mask?
The CDC recommends washing your hands before putting on the face covering, and to wear it over the nose and mouth, securing the mask under the chin. It should fit snuggly against both sides of your face. Masks should not be placed on a child under the age of 2.
While wearing the mask, it is important not to touch it — and if you do, to immediately clean your hands. The mask must be worn for the duration of time spent in public; it should not be worn around your neck or up on your forehead.
Even while wearing a mask in public, it is recommended to continue social distancing measures. Stay at least six feet away from others and wash your hands often (with soap and water) for at least 20 seconds each time. Hand sanitizer is recommended if soap and water are not available.
To remove, handle the mask only by ear loops or ties, fold the outside corners together, and place in a washing machine. The CDC recommends cloth masks be promptly washed and stored in their own paper bags with the wearer’s name on it.
“The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators,” reads the CDC website (cdc.gov/coronavirus). “Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.”
For those looking for instructions on how to construct a cloth mask, visit the CDC website at cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover.
Mask requirements for businesses
Matthews said that if a business sets a policy that all customers are required to wear cloth, paper or disposable face coverings — which is strongly encouraged — store management should consult with their legal counsel to determine whether such a requirement can be enforced.
“Employers may encourage or require employee use of cloth or disposable face coverings as indicated by sector-specific guidance,” he said. “If employers require use of cloth face coverings, employers must provide cloth or disposable face coverings for employees.”
Restaurants, bars, breweries, tasting rooms and distilleries must require all employees to wear face coverings, he said, although customers do not need to wear them while seated at a table, he said. Personal service providers — like barber shops, hair salons, medical spas, non-medical massage therapy services, nail salons and tattoo and piercing parlors — must provide and wear cloth, paper or disposable face coverings when providing direct client services.
The Hood River County Health Department is advising following all guidance issued by the governor’s office; visit govstatus.egov.com/or-covid-19 for more information.