PPE is great when used correctly

BUCKHANNON — Members of the Buckhannon-Upshur COVID-19 Community Task Force commended Upshur Countians for practicing distancing and using personal protective equipment at its April 24 web conference.

Task force members ranging from medical providers to the Sheriff’s department to public health authorities have seen an increase in residents wearing face coverings and complying with social distancing measures at retail and grocery stores. 

As residents become more comfortable with using PPE, the task force sees a need to remind everyone about the ways to use it safely.

For instance, masks need to be cleaned regularly for maximum effectiveness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends routinely washing cloth masks depending on the frequency of use in a washing machine. Members of the task force go one step further and recommend residents wash their cloth face coverings after each use, which means that everyone should have more than one covering available.

Tips on properly using a cloth face-covering include the following:

  • Coverings should fit snugly, yet comfortably, and cover your whole nose and mouth. They should extend underneath the chin.
  • Be careful when putting on your mask. Appropriate hand hygiene is important, so you do not contaminate your mask before putting it on.
  • Make sure there are no holes or tears in the fabric of your covering.
  • Ideally, your covering would have a nose bridge, which is a small clip that keeps it snug on the nose.
  • Avoid touching the mask while wearing it.
  • Try not to touch the front of the mask or your eyes, nose, or mouth when removing it.
  • Wash your hands after handling your mask.
  • Keep practicing physical distancing, even if you are wearing a cloth face covering.

Task force members stressed that wearing PPE in public does not make the wearer invincible. Limiting unnecessary trips out and adhering to the other tips that the task force, WVDHHR and CDC have shared previously remain highly encouraged. 

Use gloves with caution. Unless gloves can be switched out regularly, then they may contribute to the spread of disease as easily, or even more readily than bare hands. The CDC offers helpful graphics on how to remove and dispose of gloves.

There are differences between N95 respirators, surgical masks, and cloth face coverings. To ensure medical providers and first responders have sufficient access to N95 respirators, residents should focus on cloth face-coverings or surgical masks. 

The task force stresses personal hygiene. Washing hands for at least 20 seconds with soap, or using sanitizers consisting of at least 60 percent alcohol can be critical to slowing the spread of disease and safely using personal protective equipment.

The CDC issued a helpful tutorial on washing hands. See www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.htm for additional information.

Finally, it is important to avoid touching one’s face, to include the eyes, nose and mouth. The task force realizes that is more difficult than may be expected. Task force member Dr. Joe Reed recommends sitting with a family member (or someone in your home) for 30 minutes while each watches how often the other one touches their face. You will likely be surprised by the results!