It has been many years since I last wore a mask. In fact, pre-Coronavirus, I am struggling to remember when it might have been. But as soon as I realised that wearing a face covering was to become the norm in crowded spaces, where the two-metre distance was hard to maintain, I sought out my supply. I considered using a snood or scarf but felt it would be too much like hard work to wash it after each use. So, my answer came in a pretty double or optional triple layer mask, home-made by my friend Jacky.
ay our neighbour took me and Mr H out to a Garden Centre. Mr H isn’t able to drive at the moment so we sat in the back of her car, face coverings on, windows open and my uncut hair wildly blowing around my face. I squealed when we realised that the café was open and we would be able to sit outside on the empty patio. Mr H ordered our drinks, while Tina and I sat grinning at each other while we waited.
Then another mask wearing couple entered the café and I watched with my mouth agape as, once seated, the man grabbed the front of his mask with both hands and scrunched it up before putting it face down onto the table.
I’ve seen this behaviour so many times. People pulling on the front of their face covering or mask, continually pressing on the bridge of their nose, pulling the covering on and off their face like they are wiping a snotty nose beneath ... The Infection Prevention and Control Nurse within me cringes every time, I want to advise, tell them to stop...
Each time this is done, hands and everything subsequently touched are covered with the virus -if present- and any other respiratory or environmental micro-organisms which have collected on the inside and outside of the face covering.
Wearing face coverings in public, often in close contact with others, also seems to give some an invincible air: I’ve got a mask on therefore the virus can’t get within a leopard’s leap of me.
Whereas, I have learnt that my mask or face covering, at best prevents me, should I be an asymptomatic carrier, from spreading any respiratory droplets which contain Coronavirus to others in close proximity. It may also have a minor effect on protecting me from some virus containing droplets in a cough or sneeze should I get close to a person who has the virus.
When I handle my mask, I imagine that it is covered in someone else’s slimy snot; not something to be grabbed with both fists and left on a table where food is to be placed:
I do not touch it until I need to remove it.
When I remove it, I unloop it from my ears, avoiding touching the front or inside before dropping it into a plastic bag which I carry with me. Then I wash or sanitise my hands.
If I need to wear it again before returning home, I only touch the loops of the mask – always maintaining the same side of the material facing outwards.
Once home, with clean hands, I remove my covering from my face or plastic bag, wash it in hot soapy water and leave to dry. Then I wash my hands again.
Personally, I don’t use a disposable mask but if anyone does and wants to re-use it, it seems sensible to keep it in the bag or hung in a suitable place away from all regularly used surfaces.
Questions about cleaning the house also tumble around in my mind. But I know that any detergent such as washing up liquid or simple soap and water are sufficient for cleaning my house.
The great thing about this virus is that it is an enveloped virus. This means, like my lockdown abdomen which has been full of cake, it has a fatty (lipid) outer wall. Here’s where we can celebrate, as this layer (membrane) makes it much easier to kill when outside of the body. Unlike my stubborn cake filled abdomen, this fragile outer layer is relatively easy to break down using soap and water and once done, results in destruction of the virus.
Bleach on surfaces will also work but as one author described it; using bleach is like using a bludgeon to swat a fly. Cleaning products, including hand sanitisers, containing at least 60% Alcohol are also effective but the Bludgeon and fly come to mind unless away from a sink in the case of keeping hands clean.
Talking about hands brings me to my final point and a man in Pink marigold gloves. I titter as I type… Gloved hands are still hands which can pick up and transfer the virus or any other micro-organisms. So, wearing gloves does not mean we will not come into contact with the virus if it is there.
There are five points worth noting here:
1. Used appropriately gloves can reduce but won’t eradicate hand contamination and can spread micro-organisms. They are primarily and most appropriately for healthcare workers use.
2. Hands must always be washed or sanitised after glove removal because hands are inevitably contaminated when gloves are removed.
3. Disposable gloves are just that disposable and will not withstand ‘cleaning’ with alcohol.
4. Used gloves, shoved into pockets will contaminate the clothing.
I never wear gloves in shops, instead when out, I rely on the effective use of hand sanitiser, hand washing where possible and not touching my face.
Stay safe my friends and remember if you think of used face coverings (and gloves if you insist on using them) as being covered in someone else’s wet slimy snot it will keep you focused on their safe use.