One important part of Summit County’s Roadmap to Recovery is the new requirement that all individuals must wear non-medical cloth face coverings over both mouth and nose whenever indoors in public spaces, and outdoors whenever 6 ft. of separation cannot be maintained. This requirement is based on new evidence showing that persons without COVID-19 symptoms can spread the virus without knowing it. The virus is believed to be spread person-to-person, through respiratory droplets. A cover over the mouth and nose can intercept those droplets before they potentially infect another person. As some physical distancing restrictions are lifted, and businesses being reopening, it is important that we increase measures like wearing face coverings in order to avoid a surge in the disease.
What Kind of Face Covering is Approved?
A variety of cloth face coverings may be used when entering indoor public spaces. It does not have to be a professionally made mask or N-95 respirator, in fact CDC guidance recommends reserving those for reserved for health care workers and medical first responders as they are still in short supply. Anything from a sewn face covering to a bandana or a scarf wrapped around your face works. Even an old T-shirt can be made into a face covering. The most important thing is that both the mouth and nose must be covered.
Exceptions to the Requirement
There are exceptions to this requirement. According to CDC recommendations, cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, sleeping, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the covering without assistance. Children under 5 should be supervised while using a face cover.
Even though the CDC recommendation states that children older than two may wear a face covering, we suggest that parents and caregivers evaluate each child’s readiness, since even older children might encounter potential problems when wearing a face covering. For a face covering to serve its purpose, a child should understand not to touch the inside or outside of the face covering with their hands, not to touch their face, and how to take it off. If they cannot understand or follow those guidelines, a child may be too young to wear a face covering.
The best way to limit a child’s exposure to COVID-19, or to limit the possibility of them spreading the virus if they are asymptomatic, is to stay home and avoid public areas with your children. If you must leave your home, for example, to go to a doctor’s appointment for vaccinations, and your child is under 2 years old, we recommend draping a blanket over the raised handle of the car seat or carrier, so that it is not touching or near your child’s face.
Normalizing Face Covering Usage
If you see someone out in public who is not wearing a face covering, you may wonder if you should say something to that person. There are many reasons why a person may not be wearing a face covering, including one of the exceptions noted above. Aside from those health related situations, it’s also important to remember that wearing a face covering is a new habit for our community and society and many people are still adjusting to it. A person may not be wearing a face covering because, as a person of color, racial bias and stereotypes of criminality have created real fears about going into public spaces using face coverings. A person may not be wearing a face covering because she/he/they have experienced domestic abuse and have post-traumatic stress disorder associated with face coverings. A person may not be wearing a face covering because she/he/they have been unable to procure one yet.
Some people have been critical toward persons that are wearing a face covering. Use of a face covering is not only required in indoor public places per the amended Summit County Public Health Order, but it is also a way of respecting and protecting those around us as we build a healthy community. Remember that it has been shown that asymptomatic people can spread COVID-19, so even if you don’t currently have any COVID-19 symptoms, wearing a face covering can protect you from unknowingly spreading the virus. Use of face covers will help reduce the spread of COVID in our community and enable businesses and events to get back to normal more quickly.
So while it’s important to wear a face covering, we also must remember that judging, shaming, or criticizing someone for not wearing a face covering is not the appropriate response. Let’s set a good example, normalize face coverings by always wearing one yourself, and encourage your friends and family to take precautions and to follow the recommendations. We can support each other in productive ways, since we’re all in this together.
See more information about washing, wearing, and making Face Coverings here.