Protect your community from sickness with a mask

| June 30, 2020 8:32 AM

The Montana Nursing Association (MNA) strongly encourages Montanans to wear facemasks to help limit the spread of the coronavirus. As COVID-19 spreads across the globe and cases continue to increase in Montana, the chances that you will be exposed and get sick continue to increase.

When someone talks, coughs or sneezes they may release droplets into the air that land on surfaces and can infect others. If someone is ill or is an asymptomatic carrier, facemasks can reduce the number of germs that the wearer releases and can protect other people from becoming infected. Because this virus has its own agenda, and we now see evidence that asymptomatic people can spread the virus (and may be contagious 48 to 72 hours before starting to experience any symptoms if at all), MNA kindly asks: “Please wear a mask in all public settings when social distancing cannot be maintained to protect others.”

Masks are especially important when you are around someone not in your “bubble” of regular contacts, especially if you will be spending time in close proximity, such as a car drive.

MNA applauds all businesses requiring masks, and keeping their patrons and employees as safe as possible. What a simple thing we can all to for each other. To those who are selfish and remove their masks after entering any business that requires them or choose not to wear a mask when social distancing cannot be maintained, remember: You are compromising the safety of others, including your loved ones. Be smart. The longer we adhere to these recommendations, the longer we are able to support our public health and economy by limiting the spread of the disease in Montana.

Here are a few simple steps to ensure you are wearing a facemask properly. First, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer before touching the mask. Put it over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin. Try to fit it snugly against the sides of your face. Make sure you can breathe easily.

Wearing a mask only over your mouth and exposing your nose does not protect anyone and is equivalent to not wearing a mask at all. Wash your hands again after removing your face covering with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer.

Wear a face covering to help protect others in case you’re infected but don’t have symptoms. Keep the covering on your face the entire time you’re in public. Don’t put the covering around your neck or up on your forehead. Don’t touch the face covering, and, if you do, wash your hands

On top of wearing a mask, there are other precautions you can take. Stay at least 6 feet away from others and maintain social distancing. Avoid contact with people who are sick and, please, stay home if you are ill. Wash your hands often, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds each time. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

If we all do this now, we will be able to maintain our progress through planned reopening stages and get back to safely opening schools and working and living as we all hope to.

Vicki Byrd, MSN, RN, is chief executive officer of the Montana Nurses Association, a labor union and the state’s largest nursing association.