KISSIMMEE, Fla. - With the CDC now recommending face masks in public and some local governments like Osceola County issuing local orders to do so, what does it take to keep that essential accessory clean and working properly?
Centra Care Dr. Tim Hendrix says first, people need to understand why the masks are being widely recommended.
Up until recent weeks public health officials were only asking those who are sick to wear masks, but Hendrix said they’re now recommending masks for all to prevent the spread of the illness by asymptomatic carriers or those not showing any, or having only mild symptoms.
After all, he said the masks really don’t do much to stop COVID-19 from getting to the wearer, but do add a layer of protection going the other way.
"If you want to think you're putting on a mask to protect yourself, that's great, but the real reason is we want to protect people from you,” Dr. Hendrix said.
Still, you want to keep something that’s directly on your face as clean and sanitary as possible.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that users of homemade or cloth masks simply machine wash their masks regularly. The group’s website says "a washing machine should suffice in properly washing a face covering."
Some experts also say boiling a cloth mask can be good in a pinch or when a washing machine isn’t available.
The same cannot be said for those disposable surgical and paper masks.
Experts say washing those will simply ruin the paper material and any effectiveness that it may have.
The World Health Organization’s website still asks people to throw away disposal masks after a single use.
Dr. Hendrix said the CDC, however, has relaxed the rules on disposable masks in hospitals due to the personal protective equipment shortage in the U.S. right now.
He said because of that, it’s really OK for people to reuse their disposable masks until they become wet or visibly dirty.
However, he and many health experts are asking the general public just stay away from the disposal masks right now.
"Our frontline needs these,” Hendrix said while holding a paper surgical mask. “So, if you have these on hand, donate those [to a local hospital] and then go find someone that can make these for the general public for you."
The CDC has directions to make your own mask posted on its website.
Experts are even recommending wearing a bandana or some other cloth material over the face instead of those desperately-needed disposable masks.