Following guidelines from the CDC and a State of Alaska Health Alert issued on Sunday, the Kodiak Emergency Operations Center now recommends the use of cloth face masks when a person is out where social distancing may be difficult.
KMXT’s Maggie Wall has details, including information for making or purchasing cloth face masks.
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If you are going to get groceries, going to the post office, or will be out in public where it may be difficult to keep social distance, local officials recommend that you wear a cloth facemask to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
City Manager Mike Tvenge is the Kodiak area Emergency Services Director. He says the local EOC follows the mandates of the governor who has put out recommendations similar to the CDC regarding personal face masks.
“Alaska Health and Social Services Department of Health and Social Services is now strongly recommending Alaska’s wear cloth face covering in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as in a grocery store.”
The current recommendation is just that—a recommendation—but scientific evidence to date shows that a person infected with the coronavirus can spread the virus even though they have no symptoms, according to the Department of Health and Social Services. Using a face mask can help it says.
“They can reduce the release of respiratory droplets into the air when someone speaks, coughs or sneezes, including by people who have COVID-19 but have no symptoms.”
It is important to note that wearing a cloth face mask will not prevent a person from getting the coronavirus or developing COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Because a person could have the coronavirus and have no clue that they do, they could be out and about spreading the virus without realizing it. Tvenge says the mask is to help prevent the person wearing the mask from infecting someone else.
“They’re not to be relied on as a primary way to prevent COVID-19 transmissions and you should avoid developing a false sense of security. So you ask, what’s the importance of the mask, but it is to protect those around you.”
While Tvenge admits it might be awkward at first, people need to get used to the idea of wearing cloth face masks.
“That’s an uncomfortable thing for me as well. It’s just these are things that we’re not used to. So, I mean, how many people walk around wearing a mask? We’ve seen that on television and we’ve been traveling and see people on airplanes and airports wearing masks, but how does it apply to me?
“Well, this is a different situation we’re under right now. And, and so the latest CDC. and the state of health and social services has now recommended, that strongly recommended, that we were cloth face covering in public.”
Tvenge says not to use the more substantial N-95 or surgical masks as those are needed for hospitals, doctors, and those on the front lines of the crisis.
He also says we can expect to see on-duty first responders wearing masks out in public.
“Our fire and EMS crew, they’re wearing them 24/7 now. So when they’re out in public, so you’re going to see them walking around with masks on if they go to the grocery store to buy lunch, or buy groceries while they’re on shift. You’ll see them wearing a mask.
“We already knew that would start raising eyebrows, but we have to protect our health care providers.”
So you might be wondering, where do you get one of these cloth masks and what do you do with them?
There are many videos and tutorials online for making simple inexpensive face coverings. The CDC website even gives instructions for making a mask out of a tee shirt.
And while cloth facemasks are available for sale online, Sarah Phillips with the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce says there are many crafty people in Kodiak who could make some for you.
“You know at the chamber we say buy local. buy local, buy local. And especially now more than ever, we want to support our local islanders and contribute to the economy and help them.”
The CDC’s website is cdc.gov. It has information on making and cleaning your mask, as well as the latest information on the coronavirus and COVID-19 outbreak.