January 26, 2022

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Fabric Face Masks: What You Need To Know

PROVIDENCE, RI — Starting Saturday, all employees at Rhode Island customer-facing, office-based and manufacturing businesses, as well as nonprofits, will be required to wear some form of fabric face covering. Gov. Gina Raimondo announced the executive order Tuesday, saying that wearing masks will be part of Rhode Island’s “new normal” when the economy reopens, and everyone should get used to wearing them as a part of everyday life.

“If you’re someone who is seeing more people wearing masks and you’re wondering: Do I really have to do this? The answer is yes, you have to do it,” Raimondo said in a message to residents. “While it may be uncomfortable, none of the new rules we’re dealing with are comfortable for any of us. We’re doing it because this is what we have to do to keep each other safe.”

Here’s what Rhode Island residents need to know.

Do I have to wear a mask? Should I be wearing one anyway?

If you work at a business that is not currently closed down due to the coronavirus, chances are you fall into one of the categories listed above that are included in the governor’s executive order. Even if you are not required to wear a mask for work, all Rhode Islanders are encouraged to wear a face covering when in public, such as picking up takeout at a restaurant or grocery shopping.

Does wearing a fabric face covering protect me from getting the coronavirus?

No. The point of wearing this type of mask — also known as an “improvised face covering” — isn’t to keep you, the wearer, from getting the virus. Instead, the fabric traps the respiratory droplets we all expel from our noses and mouths when breathing, talking, sneezing and more, helping to prevent the spread of the virus if you are a carrier but don’t have any symptoms.

For this reason, wearing a face mask shouldn’t replace other critical safety measures such as frequent hand washing, avoiding touching your face, staying at least 6 feet away from others in public, and staying home as much as possible.

Should I be wearing a surgical mask or N95 respirator?

Unless you’re a health care or other front-line worker who has been specifically instructed to do so, no. These types of masks are currently in short supply and are much-needed for those who are in direct contact with people who have COVID-19 to keep them from getting the virus themselves. Again, the point of the face coverings isn’t to keep the wearer from getting the virus, but rather to prevent the spread of the virus from the wearer to the rest of the general public.

What counts as an “improvised facial covering”?

Any fabric that covers the nose and mouths works. Many people are sewing their own masks from fabric and elastics or ties, but a bandanna, scarf or even a t-shirt will work. Once the covering is on, try to avoid touching or adjusting it, and touch it as little as possible as you remove it. Looking for help or a tutorial? Visit Rhode Island Commerce’s website for more information.

How should I clean it?

Once your face covering has been removed, place it in a bag, bin or other receptacle until it can be cleaned. Ideally, these should be cleaned after every use, or at the very least, once daily. Wash in hot water, and dry on hot. Do not share face masks or coverings with anyone else, including members of your family.

Who is exempt?

Children under 2 years old and anyone who would be at a serious health risk from wearing the facial covering are exempt. Gov. Raimondo noted that adults who cannot safely wear a mask for health reasons should not be leaving their homes, anyway, because it is not safe for them to do so.

My glasses keep fogging up while I’m wearing my mask. Any advice?

This study suggests washing the glasses with soapy water before wearing. Other suggestions: try folding a tissue and placing it at the bridge of the nose, or washing glasses with shaving cream. (Disclaimer: Patch has not tested these suggestions for effectiveness. They are simply suggestions.)

Coronavirus in Rhode Island: Latest headlines

This article originally appeared on the Cranston Patch

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