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Mask up — Why you might want to consider a face covering for your next outing on Capitol Hill

Some bus riders along E John chose masks (Image: CHS)

If you are heading into an area still relatively busy with people running errands and getting some fresh air — much of Capitol Hill, for example — get ready to see a lot of masks and face coverings.

You might want to put one on, yourself.

The CDC has finally issued its recommendations on the “use of cloth face coverings” to slow the spread of COVID-19:

We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms.  This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.  In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

“It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus,” the CDC adds.

Locally, officials are more skeptical of the benefit. “Because there are few studies, we don’t really know for sure how useful cloth masks or other face coverings might be,” the latest update from Public Health reads.

“Medical masks are needed for healthcare workers who are caring for patients with COVID-19. We need our healthcare workers to be able to safely continue providing their services during this pandemic,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health. “For the general public, homemade fabric masks, especially if well-made and fit, may provide some benefit.”

Judging by the streets of Capitol Hill, many are already following the CDC’s guidance. Meanwhile, the number of local COVID-19 mask selfies posted to social media has exploded.

In Washington and King County, meanwhile, there are continued hopeful signs that efforts to slow the spread of the outbreak are slowing. King County has now reached 186 deaths with 284 deaths reported across the state. The University of Washington-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation now forecasts the state’s total to remain below 1,000.

Thursday, Washington extended its social distancing restrictions including closed schools and the shuttering of all non-essential industries into at least May.

More tips from the CDC on how to properly use a mask are below:

How to Wear a Cloth Face Covering
Applying a face mask – step 1
Cloth face coverings should—

fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
be secured with ties or ear loops
include multiple layers of fabric
allow for breathing without restriction
be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape
CDC on Homemade Cloth Face Coverings
CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

CDC also advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.

Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.

Applying a face mask – step 2
Should cloth face coverings be washed or otherwise cleaned regularly? How regularly?
Yes. They should be routinely washed depending on the frequency of use.

How does one safely sterilize/clean a cloth face covering?
A washing machine should suffice in properly washing a face covering.

How does one safely remove a used cloth face covering?
Individuals should be careful not to touch their eyes, nose, and mouth when removing their face covering and wash hands immediately after removing.

For anybody in a DIY mood, the CDC has also posted instructions on how to create your own coverings:

CHS COVID-19

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11 thoughts on “Mask up — Why you might want to consider a face covering for your next outing on Capitol Hill

  1. So Inslee extending the shutdown to 5/4, but–to me–one of the major issues is the length of this shutdown/social distancing.

    First, of course, is the fact that the response to the pandemic–even locally–has been ineffective and without any communication of what this will look like in the medium to long term.

    Second, this extension to 5/4, to me, feels like this sort of conversation happened internally:

    Someone in charge: “Well, we’re currently on lockdown and we internally know this will last (at least) several months.”

    Someone else in charge: “Yeah, but we can’t issue a shelter-in-place order through July, people will balk and there will be pushback.”

    Someone in charge: “You’re right, let’s issue it through end of April or early-May, then expect to continue extending…and by ‘expect’ I mean we will definitely do this.”

    The main problem here is that officials are, in essence, misleading the public. Not to mention that we are receiving zero understanding of what this will all look like long term.

    It’s really infuriating…

    Inslee and other officials need to be more transparent about what this will look like long term, and be more open about the fact that this lockdown will most likely last much longer than the beginning of May.

    • Other than the loss of life and economic hardships, which are terrible. Being required to stay home, nap and do nothing, getting everything by delivery and not having to meet the delivery people, this is the most wonderful thing to ever happen on earth. If it were possible to do this indefinitely I’d be very happy, so much more pleasant.

      • While I can concur in a lot of ways as I am white collar, own my own company, and largely work from home, this is a HUGE hardship for a lot of Washingtonians.

        Let’s not forget that the average person in the US has little to no savings and largely lives paycheck-to-paycheck.

        So…shutting things down for months is causing a massive amount of misery for a lot of people, even though many of us can sit in our well-appointed apartments on Capitol Hill and order Uber Eats and Amazon Fresh and–I dunno–spend a Friday evening watching season 3 of Future Man and eating an entire cake by themselves…not that I would ever do such a thing…..

    • In terms of planning and communication, I do think it makes sense to extend dates as more info is learned, stating a date they know for certainty it needs to be extended to. However, I don’t hear them saying it won’t be extended beyond that. I think most everyone knows it may be, especially in context of the lack of testing, and lack of coordinated federal response that makes all states maintain high, science-based, public health standards. Viruses don’t respect state borders.

      I do think that the lack of social safety net is being called into the bright light of day but I don’t think governments and the majority of people are willing to really engage on a restructuring.

      The reality is this could go on, repeatedly sparking, for over a year, maybe even two. But the science isn’t in yet. What we do know is with all this time many of us have, we need to do what we can to support others, but also challenge systems, and build future ones.

      That could include digital get out the vote efforts, challenging employers to maintain work from home options longer than they may want to, and challenging the federal government to massively defund “defense” budgets, tax big companies, or various other big ideas that may be the only thing that can save this country.

      That said, I’m just one person and I have a lot to learn too. I am aware that officials do have to keep in mind not creating push back and panic that leads to mass hoarding, even more stockpiling of weapons, even more xenophobic scapegoating (against Asian people, LGBT, Jews, and whatever other group ignorant people are targeting here).

      Whatever officials are saying, health care workers are not holding back in demanding what they need. Except that one hospital in WA fired the doctor who spoke up, so this exposes a horrific power structure where truth is suppressed. But to what end?

      In terms of WA government, they are not just going to say on 5/3 they are extending the lockdown past 5/4. They will provide some notice, as with anything, reopening requires many things in planning (from transit to supply chains, from staffing to ongoing safety, which includes planning if things reopen, this virus (or another) sparks, and things have to close again). Plus all the variables of our interconnections to other states, federal government, other countries.

      Many people vote for people who tell the what they want to hear. Life shouldn’t work that way. Death often does, with comfort provided to the last second, but not stopping demise.

      I don’t need sugarcoating either. But in a society where science has been attacked, truth made into some relative thing, some government positions bought, and caring, experienced leaders a rarity, who will tell the truth? I for one appreciate the briefings by Congressperson Jayapal and there are other leaders stepping up as well. If you want less sugarcoating, run for office or do other organizing. You have the power, or theoretically should in a representative democracy our claims to be, but is feeling like it is less and less.

      • Oh, I agree, the response here in Washington has been pretty good.

        Inslee definitely has my support.

        I mean, could you imagine things if we had a GOP governor? Hasn’t Tim Eyman–the skeezy, criminal initiative grifter guy–basically sewn up the GOP nomination for this cycle?

        LOL, I’d love to see how someone like that crook handled this outbreak; I can only assume his policy would be “let’s make car tabs free!.”

        My contention, though, is that it would be far better to announce a 60 or 90 day shelter-in-place order, while at the same time acknowledging that it just might get rescinded earlier…that is a far better way of going about this than issuing a two week order, then extending to 5/4, then extending further and giving the public no real idea of how long this will all last.

      • I could imagine a good GOP governor. maybe someone like Governor Hogan of Maryland? Massachusetts, a state not unlike our own, also has a competent GOP Governor. A true horror would be having one of the members of the Seattle city council as Governor. Free car tabs you say? How about free rent, free mortgages, free utilities, and free property taxes. Yeah, that’s the solution. Nothing but a bunch of posers.

  2. But… but… kids don’t get it. Keep the schools open. It only kills people in retirement homes ! Strange how all of this evolves into what was obvious to start with in China’s response. Now masks ? Who would have thought that would work with a respiratory illness….

  3. PD says above: “First, of course, is the fact that the response to the pandemic–even locally–has been ineffective…”

    Not true….just read this article: “In Washington and King County, meanwhile, there are continued hopeful signs that efforts to slow the spread of the outbreak are slowing.”

    We are, collectively, “flattening the curve.”

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