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When and where do I wear a mask to protect against COVID-19?


Look at any news footage from Asia these days and you’ll see virtually everyone who’s on the street wearing masks over their nose and mouth. More and more, we’re seeing those precautions in the U.S. as well. How about in Kern County? Has the time come for us all to be wearing masks — and if so, under what circumstances.?

Guidance when it comes to masks to protect against COVID-19 is evolving quickly. Two or three weeks ago the general public was being told not to bother. But very quickly that thinking evolved, and now ordinary folks are being told consider wearing masks when they’re out in public. In crowded stores, sure, but everywhere?

We asked Terri Church, who is the chief nurse executive for Dignity Health Central California, about the use of masks.

Q: Do I need to wear a mask while hanging out in my yard?

A: I don’t think it’s necessary, unless you’re with other people and you’re not able to maintain that six feet distance again.

So I don’t think it’s necessary in your backyard when you’re with your dog, when you’re your spouse, your significant other, who you’re with and they’re probably in the house with you.

Q: Do I need to wear a mask in a public park if nobody else is around me?

A: The problem to me with a park is if you’re going to sit on a bench, or you’re going to sit on a picnic table. And then you’re going to put your hands on that.

Then I worry about you could pick up COVID from someone that’s been there before, so we don’t know how long COVID lives on surfaces.

Q: If I go for a jog, should I wear a mask?

A: I think in your neighborhood as long as you can maintain the 6-foot distance from people you don’t need to wear your mask. Just think of all those places that you are with other people that you think a neighbor might run out and want to talk to you and get really close.

Q: Should I wear a mask if I’m driving?

A: I don’t wear my mask in my car, unless I’m with someone that I don’t know where they’ve been. I wouldn’t know I don’t think you need to wear your mask. If you’re in your car with a window down the droplets for COVID are very large. And so they drop off pretty quickly.

So then they’re just floating around in the air around your car. It is probably very unrealistic, you would have had to nearly hit someone in order to get there.

You have to pass somebody they have to cough right out their window and able to win would have to just get just right, I believe, to, to get into your to your airway

Q: What about the supermarket? Do I need to wear a mask there?

A: I think it would be a good idea just because it’s hard to maintain up social distancing.

You also have a narrow space, the aisles when you go down there.

I just went to Target and figured that out myself. It’s like, man, you cannot maintain 6 feet.

Q: Can I reuse the same mask or face covering?

A: Yes, you can reuse your cloth mask. You should be washing that and if you’re wearing that pretty frequently you should wash it every day.

It may be you wash it every couple of days, just in your normal wash. You can throw it in there and dry it, or you can do it by hand, depending on what it’s made out of.

And then when you take it off, you fold it, and the outside is considered dirty, because that’s the one that’s facing out in the public. That’s probably what you’ve touched also when you’re adjusting your mask.

So you want to fold the outside in, and the storage of paper bag is best.

Now, all of that might be good advice today. Who knows about tomorrow? Health experts say Kern County has not plateaued. In Denver, for example, they’ve had 1300 cases, 350 hospitalizations and 52 deaths, and health care authorities there say you should absolutely wear a mask when you walk or jog in your own neighborhood or visit public parks and trails. Are we coming to that here? If we don’t shelter in place, it’s a good bet.

What might be acceptable advice today could be outdated tomorrow as standards toughen or relax depending on our progress as a community to tamp down the spread of the virus. The best advice: err on the side of caution.

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