Article & Photo By: Makayla Millea
With both the fires and COVID-19, Sonoma County residents have a lot to consider when choosing a mask to wear out. It’s important to make sure that you keep your lungs safe from the smoke, while also keeping yourself and others protected from COVID-19. One retired nurse, Carol Freeland, discussed the do’s and don’ts for masks during this time.
“No matter what type of mask you’re wearing, the most important thing is how it fits you,” said Freeland. She had worked as a hospital nurse for over thirty-five years before her retirement, so she has seen her fair share of effective masks and ineffective masks during that time. The CDC recommends that you wear a mask that fits snugly around your face so that no particles escape nor get in. Freeland stated that often the masks that don’t fit you snugly are the worst kinds of masks.
The best kind of mask for any of the situations that Sonoma County is dealing with right now is the non-respirator N95 mask. It’s important to note that any mask with a valve or respirator is ineffective when it comes to COVID-19, even if it is effective when it comes to smoke protection. The non-respirator N95 mask offers many layers of protection that is the best for protecting both yourself and others. “Respiratory masks don’t protect other people, they only protect you,” said Freeland.
Cotton masks, however, will not protect you from wildfire smoke. They are effective for COVID-19 prevention when they have a filter. Freeland recommended a PM 2.5 filter, which you can buy online. If you are unable to obtain a filter, there are plenty of substitutes for them. Freeland stated that the best substitute would be sanitizer wipes that have been completely dried out and folded. The next best option would be coffee filters that have been folded over and layered. Freeland also stated that cleaning your masks frequently is very important (wash your cloth masks and spray your non-washable masks down with Lysol spray).
Some things to avoid while going out are thin masks, loose masks, or masks worn incorrectly. Make sure you are wearing your mask above your nose and mouth, and that you don’t pull your mask down until you are outside and far away from anybody. Goggles can be worn to protect your eyes from the smoke outside, and gloves can protect you from COVID-19 when you go inside.
The most effective way to protect both others and yourself is to not go outside unless you absolutely have to. Stay indoors as much as possible, especially with the bad air quality. Practice social distancing if you do go out, even if you are wearing a mask. Make sure you do your part to keep your friends, family, and yourself safe.