Top 5 FAQs about Mask Usage During the COVID-19 Outbreak

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The shortage of proper PPE, along with the CDC’s recommendation that “ALL people wear a mask” has led to some desperate measures to conserve and reuse a dwindling supply.

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A recent Impact Survey conducted by Home Care Pulse reveals that
nearly 80% of all home care agencies now report that one of their biggest challenges is having a shortage of masks. The shortage of proper PPE, along with the CDC’s recommendation that “ALL people wear a mask” has led to some desperate measures to conserve and reuse a dwindling supply. But, can you really reuse a mask? And if so, what is the safest way to do so? Here are the answers to your top 5 mask-related questions:

1. Can caregivers re-use N95 or surgical masks?

In a perfect world, N95 respirators and surgical masks are worn a single time and then discarded. But we are NOT living in a perfect world right now. In today’s reality, these masks must be reused. The best way to lengthen the life of an N95 or surgical mask is to protect it with a cloth mask. For instance, a caregiver could put on a surgical mask, then wear a homemade cloth mask over it.

2. How often should a mask be changed?

If caregivers must visit multiple clients, they should put on a clean mask for each client. If a proper N95 or surgical mask is not available for each new client, the caregiver should put on a surgical mask, then wear a homemade cloth mask over it. The cloth mask can be changed between clients and washed at the end of each day while the N95 or surgical mask can be reused for up to one week.

3. Can you disinfect a mask with Lysol, alcohol, bleach, or peroxide?

No. Spraying a mask with Lysol, alcohol, bleach or peroxide will not disinfect it. In fact, it will ruin it. And, putting something that has been sprayed with one of these chemicals back on your face could cause serious respiratory problems, especially for people who have asthma or other chronic respiratory conditions.

4. Can you get coronavirus by removing your mask improperly?

Yes. You can contaminate yourself if you remove your mask improperly. Masks should be removed by grasping the ties or elastics and carefully pulling the mask off the face. The outside and inside of the mask is contaminated after use. If you accidentally touch it during removal, immediately wash your hands.

5. How should you store a mask if you are going to reuse it?

The best way to store a used mask is in a paper bag. Paper is better than plastic for a couple of reasons. For one, the virus can’t live as long on paper as it can on plastic. And two, a mask that was recently used will be damp from breathing through it. A damp mask in a plastic bag can not dry out as easily as a damp mask in a paper bag. In addition, the paper bag should be large enough for the person to be able to reach in to grab the mask without touching the sides of the bag (which may have become contaminated).

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