Wear your mask and don’t forget to wash it, too.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to challenge our day-to-day and causes changes in our normal behaviors, it’s safe to say that this year’s holidays are going to be tough.
With the rising threat of a second wave hitting the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends celebrating Thanksgiving virtually or with members only in your household, which excludes college students traveling back from campus or relatives from different households. The large gatherings of the past should be skipped this year, including excessive traveling.
The usual social distancing measures apply: Stay six-feet apart, wash your hands frequently, and wear a mask. Make sure your mask is clean — especially if it’s a cloth mask (and machine wash it, too).
There’s a pretty simple reason why clothed masks should be washed daily; by washing it daily, it reduces the likelihood of contamination and transmission of SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according to a new study.
Research published in the journal BMJ Open found that cloth masks should be washed daily via machine wash because they were able to be better cleaned and reused compared to hand-washing methods, which doubled the risk of infection.
The study collected data from 14 hospitals in Hanoi, Vietnam, where 607 employees working in high-risk wards wore two-layered cloth masks and medical masks. Researchers compared different washing methods for cloth masks — self-washing or hospital laundry — to figure out what contamination records looked like, which also included a follow up of four weeks.
Hand-washing was the most common method of cleaning a mask, the study said. Seventy-seven percent of participants said they self-washed their masks by hand, which didn’t bode well considering the risk of infection more than doubled compared to the masks that were washed in the hospital’s laundry. Interestingly enough, cloth masks that were washed were found to be just as effective as medical masks.
“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, unprecedented research on cloth mask design is being conducted, which will result in better designs. Well-designed cloth masks may provide protection in the community, but design is only one aspect of the safety and effectiveness of a cloth mask. Daily washing as recommended by the WHO is also necessary. This study shows that a well-washed cloth mask is as protective as a medical mask,” the study read.
Obviously, some cloth masks are recommended over others. Makeshift face coverings like gaiters, bandanas, and knitted masks might help cover your face, but they aren’t the strongest in protecting or preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The World Health Organization recommends machine washing masks with hot water at 60 degrees Celsius and laundry detergent.