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Why And When San Diegans Must Wear Facial Coverings Beginning May 1

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Many people have already made face masks a part of their daily life, but tomorrow it becomes mandatory. A San Diego public health order will go into effect that requires people to wear face coverings out in public within six feet of another person who’s not a member of the household. But the directive doesn’t explain what’s the best kind of face mask or the proper way to wear it. So we’ve contacted an expert.

Speaker 1: 00:00 Although our beaches remain open, our faces will be covered starting tomorrow in San Diego. A public health order will go into effect that requires people to wear face coverings out in public within six feet of another person who's not a member of the household. But the directive doesn't explain what's the best kind of face mask or the proper way to wear it. So we've contacted an expert, dr Joel [inaudible]. Oatman is an associate medical director for the city of San Diego. She's also an assistant professor of medicine at UC San Diego and is director of emergency medical services at Rady children's hospital. Doctor, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure to be here. The most effective masks are N 95 respirators, but since there's a shortage, those masks that are exclusively for healthcare workers. So what kinds of masks are the next best?

Speaker 2: 00:53 So the next kind of massive, the next best, obviously saving the hospital grade masks for our hospital and healthcare workers is using the cloth masks and the cloth mask because it's new and we've never used it before. There's not a lot of data on it, but the idea is by using the cloth mask, we can save the surgical mask and the respirators for those who are working with patients and in a higher risk and we they need that level of protection. And the cloth mask is to help prevent the spread to people. If you are carrying coven, and it should be more than one layer of fabric, if you can have a filter in it, that would be fantastic. It shouldn't be see-through and you should be able to secure it behind your head with Tiser ear loops and it should fit snug but comfortable and you should be able to breathe through it. Now, what's the

Speaker 1: 01:48 main public health goal of wearing facial coverings? Is it to protect yourself from the virus or to protect others from your germs?

Speaker 2: 01:55 I think you stated it beautifully. It's to protect others from your germs. When you're putting a cloth mask over your mouth, you're helping prevent the spread of saliva and droplets coming out of your mouth to the air to everything that you're touching. So putting on your mask is an act of caring about your community. So if we are all wearing masks, why do we have to maintain social distancing? Well, cloth masks aren't perfect. They're not respirator masks are surgical masks. The particles, the smaller particles can still get through them. So you still want to have that six feet of diff distancing when you're talking to people and you're, when you're moving, if you're coughing vigorously with a cloth mask on, it's not going to work a hundred percent so this is an additional layer to your social distancing and your hand washing. You have to have the combinations combined.

Speaker 1: 02:46 Let's get into some face mask wearing one Oh one. Okay. What are some, uh, general best practices for wearing a face mask properly?

Speaker 2: 02:55 So you want it to be able to cover your nose and your mouth all the way down to your chin. So I see some people walking around with it only over their mouth and not covering their nose. That won't help any of the droplets that are coming out of your nose. So cover both nose and mouth. You want to have it fit? Snuck but comfortable so you don't want it to be loose and flapping around because you can still have a shift of air out of your mouth and down. And when you touch it, because with your breathing into the mask and it's catching your droplets and you, maybe you're carrying COBIT and you just don't know it or you have a cold, that mask now has your germs in it. So you don't actually want to be touching the mask that's been in front of your mouth. So try to handle your mask with the strengths. Like what's your ties are your, your lips only have all of your touching beef from that part. That way you're not contaminating.

Speaker 1: 03:42 Well, if we are wearing masks mainly to protect others, why does it matter whether we touch the mask or reuse it?

Speaker 2: 03:49 Because if you touch your mask and your germinating your hands and then you go and you touch door knobs and other things, you've now turned a respiratory droplet into a contact. And so wherever you're going, if your hands are now contaminated and you're touching things, other people who follow along behind you and touch the same areas can now catch it. So the idea is to cover your mouth. It keeps when you're talking and coughing, it keeps it from spreading and it prevents, you're not supposed to be touching your mouth. So it's a nice reminder of don't touch your face and touch your mouth and get saliva on your hands that you could potentially be spreading.

Speaker 1: 04:27 How often should you wash your mask?

Speaker 2: 04:30 I mean, the perfect scenario would be you're going to go to the store. So you put your mask on when it's nice and clean, you go to the store, you do your shopping, you say socially distanced, you wash your hands and then when you get home you take it off using the straps or ties and then throw it in the washing machine. That's the ideal. Is that perfect? And whatever is going to do? No, I think we're going to learn to adapt and work with masking. Um, I would wash it at least at the end of the day. And that's one of the keys is to have a cloth mask that you can wash that doesn't change the shape. If you're wearing it out in a riskier environment, wash it sooner and you can just throw it in the washing machine with hot soapy water and that's all it takes to clean it.

Speaker 1: 05:10 What about if you're riding your bicycle or you're out for a run? Should you be wearing a mask then?

Speaker 2: 05:16 Well, there's, that's kind of hard and, and I should say we're recording this April 30th so everything I'm talking about is using evidence that we have up till now. So everything's subject to change. There is some talk about bicycle riders with the way in the aerodynamics that their droplets can actually spread out further distance. So if you can comfortably wear one, I'd say comfortably wear one. It's a smart, it's a good habit to be in. It's not dangerous if you're not comfortable and you can't run because your, your mask is having difficulty. Make sure that you're staying at good social distance away and you might even want to do a little bit longer if you're running or riding a bike just because you're going to be breathing hard and just different techs, other people around you from your own droplets and you don't have to wear one while you're driving.

Speaker 2: 06:02 Right. You don't, but if you're seeing someone who's wearing a mask while they're driving, it might be just because they know they're going out multiple times into the public and so they've just put their mask on and they're not touching it and they're going to avoid any manipulation of their mask until they get home where they can use the ties and ear ties and just throw it in the laundry. Are there people doctor who should not wear masks? Yes, there are. Thank you for asking. Less than two year olds shouldn't wear a mask. Those who have trouble breathing or they're unconscious or incapacitated or they can't remove their own mask without help. Shouldn't have a mask on. Now you made the comment that if you have sort of a flimsy mask and you sneeze, that's really not going to keep those germs to yourself. Should we.

Speaker 2: 06:52 Therefore, if we are going to be sneezing or coughing, continue to cover our noses on our mounts with our elbow, even if we have a face covering. That's a trick question. If you're sick and you're sneezing and coughing, you should be at home. But I mean anything is better than nothing. So if you have a layering over your mouth and your cover and you're coughing, it's still gonna catch more droplets than if you had nothing over your mouth. It's just, it's better to have a thicker one that's more protective. If you go, if you're coughing and it's a very thin layer and you move your hand over your mouth, mouth, you're still gonna be able to catch some of the droplets in your hand and contaminate things. So you still want to practice the, don't touch your face. Keep some layer of protection over that.

Speaker 2: 07:35 We are catching the droplets that are coming out of your mouth and wash your hands frequently. Finally, are you concerned that with this mandatory face mask order that the mask could give people a false sense of security and then they don't adhere to social distancing and they go out more often? That kind of thing? I am, and that's why I think every time we talk about cloth masks, we need to talk about it with the staying six feet away, washing your hands of this is just an added layer to those measures. This does not replace those measures. I've been speaking with dr Joel, Denelle, Frio Oatman. She is associate medical director for the city of San Diego. And doctor, thank you so much for the information. Thank you so much.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.