COVID-19 FAQs: Do we need to wear face masks?

CDC says people should wear masks in public, in addition to other safety steps

How to properly wear a face mask, an infographic showing a man in profile with face mask loops over his ears and mask covering his nose and mouth

If you have to go to anywhere in public where social distancing is tough, the CDC recommends wearing a mask.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended since April that people wear face masks in public settings where staying 6 feet away from others is more difficult, especially where significant COVID-19 community spread is occurring. The CDC also recommends mask use for children age 2 and older.

The agency warns against placing masks on children younger than 2, or on anyone who has trouble breathing or cannot remove the mask without assistance.

Learn more: Latest CDC guidelines on wearing masks

To meet CDC guidelines, Sanford Health and the Good Samaritan Society also implemented new face mask requirements in April. Employees must wear surgical face masks at all times while in clinics, hospitals, skilled nursing locations, assisted living communities, and home health and hospice care settings. Where visitors are allowed, they also must wear masks.

Effective Nov. 25, Sanford Health employees in non-clinical locations are required to wear a mask at all times when social or physical distancing requirements can’t be met.

Providers caring for presumed or known positive COVID-19 patients wear additional protective gear, including face shields, N95 respirators or powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs).

At the same time, Sanford and the Good Samaritan Society intensified infection control measures to protect patients, residents and health care staff.

“Our knowledge regarding COVID-19 is rapidly expanding. This allows us the opportunity to update personal protective equipment policies to incorporate the best evidence,” said Allison Suttle, M.D., chief medical officer of Sanford Health. “This proactive action will help minimize virus transmission from people who may carry COVID-19 but aren’t showing symptoms.”

Early in the pandemic, the CDC’s recommendations for face masks applied only to people sick with COVID-19 or for health care providers working closely with those patients. But since learning people without symptoms can spread COVID-19, the CDC widened its recommendation to the general public.

Face coverings are simply an additional measure of protection, the CDC notes. Other preventive measures are still crucial tools in slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Those are:

  • Social distancing 6 feet from people outside your household
  • Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly
  • Covering coughs and sneezes with your arm or a tissue
  • Staying home when you’re sick
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick. The CDC defines “close contact” as being within 6 feet of another person for a total of 15 minutes or more — even shorter but repeated contacts that add up to 15 minutes over a 24-hour period.

This story originally was published April 6, 2020. It was last updated Nov. 25, 2020.

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Posted In Coronavirus, Frequently Asked Questions

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