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Time for seniors to mask up

Posted By Marilynh / April 22, 2020 / 8 Comments

To mask or not to mask – that is the question.  Or it was. 

The great debate of masking up, or not,
is pretty much resolved.

 

YEI Masks - 1200

 

 

To mask or not to mask – that is the question.  Or it was.  The great debate of masking up, or not, is pretty much resolved. Recently, a group of public health and infection prevention doctors have called for the general public to wear homemade face masks.  Their reasoning is that it does assist in reducing your risk in contracting the disease.

 

Weighing in on the debate

The Health Department of the Western Cape Government weighed in on the debate and has agreed that as this epidemic has unfolded, the wider use of masks for the general public are indicated, even for those who are not ill.

In one of his recent updates to the nation, Dr Zweli Mkhize, Minister of Health, confirmed that wearing masks is one of the best ways of preventing the spread of infection.  Research scientist, Jeremy Howard, has stated that studies have shown that the wearing of masks during a pandemic could potentially halt the growth of new Covid-19 cases.  Other countries (the Czech Republic and Mongolia) who have made the wearing of masks mandatory, combined with social distancing, good hygiene and comprehensive testing, appear to have repressed the spread of the virus in their countries.

 

The Golden Rules of Good Hygiene

It is important to emphasize that wearing a mask is an addition, not a replacement for other health strategies in the effort to flatten the curve.  The Golden Rules of Good Hygiene i.e. Staying home, physical/social distancing, regular 20-second or more handwashing, avoiding touching your face, coughing or sneezing into a tissue (and discarding it immediately) or into the corner of your arm, sanitising surfaces and widespread screening and testing, should be adhered to at all times and are key elements in preventative action.

 

woman in homemade mask

 

Distinguish between masks

Frontline workers need to have the required N95 respirators and/or medical masks in order to protect themselves when they are doing their duties and helping to save lives.  As there is a global shortage of these masks, please do not obtain these.  There needs to be enough to supply the frontline healthcare workers in South Africa’s hospitals and clinics.  While wearing a homemade mask is not as effective as a surgical mask, homemade masks can go a long way when it comes to protecting oneself and reducing the spread of the disease.

 

A cloth mask can: 

  • Reduce exposure when out in public places – supermarkets, banks, taxis, government buildings, public transport
  • Reduce inhaling a large number of droplets, and reduces the transmission from someone sneezing or coughing
  • Provide protection, but must be appropriately used and cleaned.

 

Dumisami 2

 

How to use a cloth facemask: 

  • Wash your hands before putting the facemask on, and wash your hands again after removing it;
  • Refrain from touching your face
  • Ensure the mask fits well. Try not to touch the cloth part.
  • Wash masks with warm soapy water, and iron when dry
  • If possible, have two masks per person, one in the wash and one ready to use

 

Dumisami 2

 

How to make a cloth facemask:

There are many videos on YouTube which demonstrate how to make a cloth mask.

Elmarie Taljaard from Meadowridge has provided YEI with these instructions on how to make your own face mask.
Click here to see the pattern and to watch the step by step videos.

 

Alternatively, watch this tutorial
and find out how to turn a scarf from your wardrobe into a face mask

 

 

The Western Cape Government approved cloth mask:

 

  • Two layers – an inner layer and outer layer
    If possible, an additional inner layer – a laminate breathable layer of non-woven fabric that can be washed at high temperatures, even a jacket lining inner.
  • Material – preferably thick weave cotton e.g. denim, calico or upholstery cotton fabric that can be easily washed
    Do not use stretchy material with a loose leave (e.g. t-shirt material) – these do not offer any protection.

Scientist have tested various household materials for homemade masks.  Their findings are that a double layer of 100% cotton cloth is the most effective and is breathable.

 

Man in homemade mask

 

YEI recommendation

Many South African seniors fall into the vulnerable group.  YEI’s recommendation is that we all try and adopt the practice of wearing masks as one way of keeping safe and healthy.

The #masks4all movement advocate taking personal responsibility and making the masks ourselves.  Their slogan is “I protect you, you protect me”.   The movement already has the buy in of leading health and civil society organisations and is committed in helping to make alternative masks and protect the scarce healthcare resources.

We would like to suggest that seniors who can sew and have material at home help their family members and seniors in their community by making masks for them.    The quicker every person in the nation can get a face mask, the quicker we can “flatten the curve”.

 

 

Sources and references:

World Health Organisation 
NB:  The WHO have a different opinion on the wearing of masks – please click on the link above for further information.

Western Cape Government, Department of Health

Daily Maverick

 

Relevant articles:

How to reduce your risk of catching the COVID-19 virus while shopping

An opportunity for SA seniors to master the art of online shopping

You’ve Earned It / YEI (https://youve-earned-it.co.za/),
the online retirement platform
for South African over-60s

 

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Comments

8 Comments

  • Fred
    April 14, 2020 at 9:27 pm

    So where can I buy a facemask that properly protects me and those around me? Everywhere seems sold out and I dont believe that the home made ones are effective.

    • Angela Watkins
      April 15, 2020 at 9:37 am

      Dear Fred, thank you for contacting us. The South African government has recommended the use of masks in public after scientific evidence showed fabric coverings of the face can lower the transmission of the novel coronavirus. The government has asked South Africans to not purchase medical grade masks as these are needed by medical staff. Which is why most are making their own fabric masks
      Health minister Zweli Mkhize has said “Our scientists are saying they actually have got evidence that the level of excretion of the virus in the exhaled air after the mask is much, much, much reduced,” Mkhize said in televised press conference, adding he was recommending homemade masks because specialised medical masks are already in short supply for health-care workers.”

    • Dee Krauss
      April 22, 2020 at 5:44 pm

      Where can I buy a plastic face shield

      • Marilynh
        April 23, 2020 at 9:08 am

        Dear Dee – we have seen some available in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town – where do you live? Maybe other YEI members can offer up some information from their areas.

        Warm regards, YEI

  • Patricia Hendey
    April 22, 2020 at 5:09 pm

    I subscribe to the WHO website and receive daily updates. WHO recommends the use of face masks for all medical personnel and for members of the public who test positive for Covid-19.
    WHO does not from a health perspective recommend face masks for all members of the public!?
    Please forward to me on a WHO letterhead where they recommend masks be worn by everybody.
    Psychologically, I concur that for many persons wearing a mask gives them a sense of being in control…

    • Marilynh
      April 23, 2020 at 9:31 am

      Dear Patricia

      Thank you for your message. We wholly concur that the wearing of masks has not been “blessed” by the WHO. The above article does not mention this. The article was written in reference to the advice given by the Health Dept of the Western Cape, the Minister of Health and information from a Research Scientist, who have agreed that as this epidemic has unfolded, the wider use of masks for the general public are indicated, even for those who are not ill.

      REgards, YEI

  • Tim Terry Lt col ret
    April 22, 2020 at 6:17 pm

    This is absolute rubbish. I trained in biological and germ warfare in the military, and I also wrote military orders and directives that included this subject. Masks will prevent you from infecting others if you are infected yourself. It cannot stop a virus from infecting you because a virus is very very small and will pass through all materials except very specifically designed ones. That is a fact and I can supply detailed information about this. Wearing face masks is also likely to cause you to be infected more easily because people touch their faces and the mask a lot as well. The best is to maintain PHYSICAL DISTANCE and to wash your hands correctly and not to touch your face at all if you are in a public place.

    • Marilynh
      April 23, 2020 at 9:07 am

      Dear Col Terry

      Thank you for your message. The article was written in reference to the advice given by the Health Dept of the Western Cape, the Minister of Health and information from a Research Scientist. We absolutely agree with your statement that physical distancing is best as well as washing your hands correctly and to not touch your face. Please see the paragraph above – It is important to emphasize that wearing a mask is an addition, not a replacement for other health strategies in the effort to flatten the curve. The Golden Rules of Good Hygiene i.e. Staying home, physical/social distancing, regular 20-second or more handwashing, avoiding touching your face, coughing or sneezing into a tissue (and discarding it immediately) or into the corner of your arm, sanitising surfaces and widespread screening and testing, should be adhered to at all times and are key elements in preventative action.

      Thank you for your advice and we would be most happy to publish the information you have in order for our senior readership to read about the pros and cons of wearing masks.

      Regards, YEI

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