Infectious diseases have always been part of life. And, like generations before us, we will get through the recent health crisis if we all work together. As we all continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers, health experts and physicians are emphasizing the importance of wearing masks to slow the spread of this highly contagious virus.

“Wearing a mask is one of the simplest things we can do to help decrease the spread of COVID-19 and, quite honestly, save lives,” said Dr. Cole Reha, Pender Community Hospital Medical Director. In addition to other precautions like frequent hand washing and staying socially distant, Dr. Reha added, “If everyone wore a mask when in areas where social distancing is difficult, such as indoor places, it would decrease the risk of virus transmission. This is a simple act that can protect yourself and others right here in our community.”

Physicians, researchers and public health experts have spent long hours helping those infected who need advanced care, but many people may be carriers of the virus and not even realize it. Masks reduce the spread of COVID-19 by containing respiratory droplets–invisible to the naked eye–that are released each time we talk, cough, sneeze or sing. By wearing facemasks whenever we’re in public, studies have proven that we can help slow the spread to help keep our family, friends and our community safe.

When should you wear a mask–and who should wear one?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone over the age of two wear masks in public settings, or when spending time with people who don’t live in our same household. Wearing masks indoors has become a mandate in many areas. Even outside, in highly populated areas, wearing a mask and staying socially distant–at least six feet from others–greatly helps control the spread of aerosols that could contain the virus. People with developmental disabilities, mental health conditions or other special health considerations should speak with their providers for guidance about wearing masks.

What’s the proper way to wear a mask?
Wash your hands before–and after touching your mask. For the best protection, masks should cover your chin, mouth and nose and can be looser-fitting–as long they are secure–so they’re most effective and you’re less tempted to touch your face to reposition your mask too often.

What types of masks are available?
There are many types of masks available and researchers have conducted in-depth studies about the effectiveness of the different styles and types. And while common sense says that some coverage is better than nothing, there are some masks that are better at containing respiratory droplets.

  • Medical or surgical masks are most often worn by healthcare workers. They vary in grades and styles, depending on the level of protection the user requires. They are disposable and often made from non-woven fabrics like polypropylene, and create a barrier between medical professionals and the people they treat.
  • Hygienic masks are not intended for healthcare workers, but the fibrous structure helps the wearer contain droplets emitted when they speak, cough or sneeze. These disposable masks can be reusable when accompanied by a quality certificate, but they are usually discarded daily, or if they become compromised or soiled.
  • Fabric masks when worn correctly, create barriers making it harder for droplets to be emitted, but it’s important to choose the right material for the best level of protection. Choose fabric masks made from tightly-woven fabrics, think of the material of bed sheets for example. Stretchy materials or fabrics that can be seen through are not the best choice. Masks with vents or valves are also not recommended and may do more harm than good.

The impact of COVID-19 is already staggering and it could be many months before we fully understand the long-term health effects on our community, and our country. To everyone who has been so supportive of our Pender Community Hospital medical professionals, we thank you most sincerely for your kindness. Thank you also to everyone who is already wearing masks. You are making a tremendous difference to people you don’t even know–and we urge everyone to do the same.