Now that the Sioux Falls City Council has passed an emergency face mask mandate, what does that mean? Nothing. It's largely symbolic since it lacks a penalty for non-compliance. However, it does leave the door open for a harsher mandate later.

But this article isn't to debate on whether or not the council should have gone further. This isn't even to debate on whether a single-ply cloth mask will stop a 0.3 micron-sized COVID-19 virus from passing right on through the weave. This article discusses the proper way to wear a mask.

Whether you freely choose to wear a mask or you have to wear one as a condition of employment, from all that I have seen around the Sioux Falls area, we need a refresher course on how to properly wear them.

Let me start by saying a face mask is a medical device and I am not a medical expert, nor I am trained on how to properly use a mask. I would bet that the majority of people reading this are in the same boat. So we should defer to the advice of doctors at the CDC on how to apply a mask.

On Oct. 29, 2020, the CDC updated its recommendations to the following:

  • Choose a mask that has two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric. Single-ply cloth masks are not as effective. Don't wear one that is made of vinyl.  Completely cover your mouth and nose. Don't use a mask with an exhalation valve.
  • Fit the mask snuggly against the sides of your face with no gaps. Don't use N95 masks, the CDC says to save them for medical professionals.
  • Wash your hands before applying a mask. Do NOT touch, adjust, or otherwise fidget with the mask while wearing it.
  • Do not wear a mask around your neck, on your forehead, under your nose, only on your nose, on your chin, dangling from one ear, or on your arm.
  • When it's time to take off your mask, the CDC says to carefully untie the strings or stretch the ear loops. Handle the mask only by the ear loops, do NOT touch the inside of the mask. Fold the outside corners together. Be careful to NOT touch your eyes, mouth, or nose while removing the mask. Immediately wash your hands upon removal.

They seem to have forgotten to give advice on what to do with the contaminated mask after you remove it. You're on your own there.

How many times have you seen people violate some or all of those guidelines? I personally have broken every one of these rules.

But this article isn't meant to judge or shame anyone. Rather it's to raise awareness on just how difficult, and I would say nearly impossible it is to correctly wear a mask in your daily life and not potentially contaminate yourself or others.

Could the spike in cases in South Dakota and around the country be partly caused by improper mask-wearing? Again, I'm not a medical expert, but logic and reason tell me it's certainly possible.

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