OLYMPIA – Today, new national guidance was released recommending the public wear non-medical cloth face coverings. You may see an increase in masking in the community. It is vital, over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, to keep our health care system strong, healthy, and fully functioning. N95 masks should be reserved only for those who are doing direct COVID-19 patient care, including medical first responders. Medical grade (disposable surgical) masks should be reserved for others in the health care field, law enforcement or other first responders.
For the general public, non-medical masks, including homemade fabric masks can be worn as a matter of choice, but do not replace the need to continue following guidance to stay home and practice social distancing. People should continue washing hands frequently with soap and water, avoid touching their faces, avoid gatherings of any kind, and continue staying at least 6 feet away from one another.
"Anyone can wear a mask," said Thurston County Health Officer, Dr. Diana Yu. "Because some people may have COVID-19 but have no symptoms, masking may provide some benefits. They may, for example, help you remember not to touch your face. It's important to also thank all the folks at home who are making home-made masks to share with the community. If well-made and well-fit, they can reduce droplets coming from your own mouth and nose."
Dr. Yu went on to say that, "What we don't want is for people to have a false sense of security. Masks can be a helpful tool, but social distancing and hand washing is what will protect us. That should be our focus."
If someone does choose to wear a non-disposable mask, they should wash it daily, or whenever it becomes wet or contaminated. In addition, it is best to make it easy to tell which is the inside and which is the outside to reduce contamination.