Community responds to recommendations on facial masks
DILLON — At the beginning of April, the Center for Disease Control added wearing facial coverings in public settings to their list of recommendations to slow the spread of COVID-19, a recommendation that has garnered a variety of reactions across Summit County.
Summit County Public Health Nurse Amanda Merriman said that this recommendation was added as more information was learned about the virus and evidence showed that asymptomatic individuals could spread the novel coronavirus.
“We know that you could spread the illness prior to showing any symptoms and even without ever having any symptoms at all so the mask protects others from your sneezing or coughing or spreading that virus,” Merriman said. “If you’re wearing the mask properly then you’re preventing transmitting the germs.”
Merriman said that masks or facial coverings used by nonessential workers who are going out in public are meant to be cloth facial coverings rather than surgical masks or N95 respirators which should be preserved for front-line workers. She recommended using multiple layers of tightly woven cotton fabric from common household items like pillowcases or T-shirts. While Summit County residents tend to have plenty of ski masks on hand, Merriman says it is best if these can be folded to create multiple layers and still cover the mouth and nose. The U.S. Surgeon General also created a video that demonstrates how to create a homemade mask. The video can be found on the CDC’s YouTube channel.
“I try to keep it simple and think, multiple layers of fabric that you can breathe through,” Merriman said.
Merriman also recommended hand washing prior to putting on the facial covering and again before removing the covering. It is also recommended that facial coverings be washed between uses.
“You don’t want to be touching the mask itself in case there are germs on that that you could be touching and spreading elsewhere,” Merriman said.
The facial coverings are not meant to replace social distancing and Merriman recommended that individuals still cough into their elbows even when wearing a facial covering.
The facial covering should be worn anywhere where you cannot maintain 6 feet of separation between yourself and other individuals. For reference, 6 feet, the recommended measure for safe social distancing, is approximately the length of two golden retrievers standing nose to tail, an average sized man with a top hat, or the length of adult skis. Merriman said that in addition to wearing facial coverings in stores, a place like a singletrack trail would also apply to the recommendation for facial covering.
“It’s just an additional measure,” Merriman said. “In hard times like this we like to feel like we have something that we can do, something that’s tangible. So this is just an additional thing we can do to help protect each other.”
For those interested in donating facial coverings, Merriman said to contact the Joint Information Center at 970-668-9730.
Summit County Environmental Health Manager Dan Hendershott said that the county is trying to work with public essential businesses like grocery stores to encourage employees to wear facial coverings for the protection of employees and the public. He added that the public needs to be responsible about following the CDC recommendation.
“There’s currently no mandates to wear face coverings from Summit County or the state of Colorado,” Hendershott said. “Some jurisdictions have made such mandates, but we haven’t. My understanding is people are starting to wear them more as they become more available.”
Store owners report between 50% and 95% of customers wearing facial coverings. Breckenridge Market and Liquor store manager Erik Wilkinson said that about half of his customers are wearing facial coverings. He said while there are mixed reactions to the recommendation from both customers and employees, store employees are required to wear masks.
“We have our employees wearing gloves and masks,” Wilkinson said. “Regardless of what they think, if they want a paycheck, they wear a mask.”
Wilkinson added that there are plexiglass shields up to protect both customers and employees. He feels that employees are more comfortable having these shields even when customers don’t wear masks. He said that while there haven’t been issues with customers maintaining social distancing on the grocery side of the store, the liquor side of the store has closer quarters and people are more apt to disregard social distancing. In these situations he refers customers to the signs around the story asking customers to maintain their distance. He said that most comply and he has only seen an issue with one customer so far.
“I think there’s more of a sense of community nowadays, we’re all in this together,” Wilkinson said. “It’s been nice to see the camaraderie. I think everyone is just eager to go back to normal.”
At The Local Market in Breckenridge, liquor store manager Doc Fields said he sees about 95% of customers wearing something to cover their face. Fields said that he puts his facial covering on when people come into the store, but that it is difficult to wear it all day while working. He said that for people who are coming into a place of business, wearing a facial covering is to make others feel comfortable.
Paul Sullivan, owner of Loveland Pass Liquors and Market, said that about half of customers and employees have been wearing facial coverings. He said while some people are coming in wearing medical masks, others have simple makeshift coverings like bandanas.
In response to a Facebook post on One Man’s Junk Summit County, several community members shared their experiences in public places after the facial covering recommendation. In a Facebook message Page E Van Meter wrote that she started wearing a facial covering in public after reading reports that asymptomatic individuals could spread the virus.
“I knew that normalizing the wearing of masks in public was going to be necessary. On my first weekly market trip wearing my mask I got a rude, uninformed comment, but did not let it deter me. Now that the mask recommendations are in place I am shocked by how few people I see wearing them,” Van Meter said, noting that it has been a week since she last visited the market.
Van Meter said she has been sewing facial coverings for family and friends from pillowcases.
Other community members responded to the post saying they have seen as few as 25% of people wearing facial coverings in public and as many as 75% of people following the recommendation. People had mixed views on how things have changed since the recommendation was announced. Leila Nayeem-Brashaw commented that she felt that more people were wearing masks right after the announcement than this week. On the other hand Ben Hornick commented that after being in public for the first time in approximately 10 days that he noticed a “huge increase” in people wearing facial coverings.
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