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To mask or not to mask; CDC has a new answer

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To mask, or not to mask, may be an easy answer if it was the world’s only Shakespearean flaw and dilemma.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, at the beginning of the pandemic, advised for people in general not to wear masks.

“You can increase your risk of getting it by wearing a mask if you are not a health care provider,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams said, according to published reports.

Reports continued to pour out in the media and studies, citing a large number COVID-19 infected people could be asymptomatic.

Asymptomatic means though infected and contagious, there are few indications for someone to realize they are sick.

When asked about wearing masks, South Dakota head Epidemiologist Dr. Joshua Clayton pointed out a person who is asymptomatic does not produce as much contagion as one who presents symptoms.

Correct. A person not coughing, sniffling and wiping their nose often is not going to produce as much of a chance to infect others as a person who is sputtering.

“Folks who don’t know how to wear them properly tend to touch their faces a lot and actually can increase the spread of coronavirus,” Adams said.

Another good point.

Everyone knows the people on the front lines — doctors, nurses and other medical professionals — need all the personal protection equipment (PPE) they can get their paws on. The question was left to the public, and it was confusing with all the contradictory answers.

Recently, the World Health Organization recommended on its website for everyone to wear masks. At first, the WHO advised against this.

The CDC, in February, told people “do not use facemasks.”

However, the CDC and WHO have reversed course.

“CDC continues to study the spread and effects of the novel coronavirus across the United States,” CDC said on its website. “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 places such as Hong Kong, they have been wondering why Americans would not wear masks.

“When you have been through SARS firsthand,” Hong Kong citizen and English translator Narene Tin said. “It’s not like the flu.”

Reluctantly, it seems, the U.S. is hopping on one world bandwagon.

“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,” CDC said.

Cloth masks are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators, critical supplies the CDC said, “must be continue to be reserved for health care workers and other medical first responders.”

“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,” CDC said. “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.”

Masks should not be placed on youngsters age 2 and younger, anyone with trouble breathing, or anyone who is incapacitated or unable to remove the mask without assistance, CDC said.

In Pierre, there are both sides of the query.

Inside one grocery store recently, none of the cashiers, baggers or personnel in sight at the time had on masks. There are only five cases in Hughes County.

Five cases is enough to be considered “substantial community spread,” according to the South Dakota COVID-19 Department of Health website. It updates every day at noon.

Samuel Smith, 34, lives in Pierre, washes his hands often, and after washing his hands of cancer 16 years ago, he will not wear a mask, he said.

“I am not wearing a mask or face covering in public,” Smith said. “As a 16-year cancer survivor, I have made the decision not to live in constant fear of this virus. My own research on the subject has indicated that common sense is the preventative measure we need. The type of mask that will actually prevent the spread is the N95 mask and those supplies are limited and should be left for the for medical professionals and those at highest risk.”

If he presents symptoms, he said he will self-quarantine at home unless they become too unmanageable, he said.

With another person in Pierre, Danni Doolittle, 45, it’s an entirely different story.

“I do wear a mask when I have to do essential shopping, as I am at high-risk for COVID-19 and I have five children and five grandchildren who depend on me, as well as my husband,” Doolittle said. “Not to mention, if we fall ill, there is no one to care for our children.”

A mask is not a substitute for social distancing. Most everyone, the CDC, WHO, President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, the team fighting the virus — and even moms --agree: Keep 6 feet apart as much as possible.

There are setbacks with the use of cloth masks, such as those highlighted by Adams. The way to combat and mitigate, if not eliminate, the dangers is to become informed.

In its instructions for mask use, the WHO describes use for disposable masks, so some common sense will be needed.

Before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water;

Cover mouth and nose with mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask;

Avoid touching the mask while using it. If you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water;

Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not re-use single-use masks;

To remove the mask, remove it from behind (do not touch the front of mask); discard immediately in a closed bin; clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

The first step is perfect.

For the second step, with a cloth mask, bandana, scarf or homemade mask, this may not be achievable. Don’t panic. Also, obey step three and do not touch the mask while you are wearing it.

The fourth step is interesting for the civilian. With only one handmade mask, yet only wearing it to go to the store, this will most likely not be an issue. Though, see rule five and remove your mask when finished by the back of your head or ear straps, as directed. Use an alcohol wipe and wipe it off, and then clean your hands again before re-use. See step one.

If a bandana is it, it’s the same idea. Do as Master Sgt. Anthony Polite said.

“Do your job. Complete your mission. Go home,” Polite said.

Then, just add the bandana to the laundry pile by removing it from the back of the head upon arrival home.

During the weekend, the CDC created a new updated how-to for cloth masks. It included sew and no-sew methods for folks to fabricate their own masks, with simple directions for removal and advice on sterilization.

Of the two methods for fabricating cloth masks from the CDC, one requires three materials for supplies, while the other requires only two.

This is a marathon, not a sprint, Gov. Kristi Noem has pointed out. She has also sung the praises of South Dakota residents, saying their actions have flattened the curve by as much as “70%.”

If asymptomatic folks are out there as much as some fear, the world will not know the true danger for some time to come. However, residents of the Pierre and Fort Pierre areas not have to make the decision: To mask or not to mask.

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