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Saturday, Sep 19, 2020

Should I wear a mask?

Heading to the supermarket or popping out for dinner? That's okay but in most indoor public places in the Cayman Islands it is now legally required to wear homemade masks or face coverings.

In places like restaurants and bars, you need to wear them when not sitting at a table.

Wearing a mask or face covering can only work when you also practice other preventative measures like social distancing and frequently washing or sanitising your hands.

These measures continue to be the best form of defense when it comes to lowering the spread of COVID-19 and keeping our most vulnerable people safe.

Persons are strongly encouraged to wear homemade masks or face coverings in all enclosed spaces except your own home.

In most indoor public places, it is legally required to wear homemade masks or face coverings under certain conditions, which vary based on the public place and whether you are in Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac or Little Cayman.

*Individual businesses will have their own rules that must be complied with on all three islands.

Homemade masks or face coverings can be useful when acting as a partial barrier to stop droplet spread of the virus responsible for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). That said, we must be cautious when considering using them as protection against the transmission of COVID-19 cannot be guaranteed.

Should I Wear A Mask?

Homemade masks or face coverings should be worn in all enclosed spaces outside of your own home, especially where distancing of six feet or two metres is difficult to maintain.

In most indoor public places, it is legally required to wear homemade masks or face coverings under certain conditions, which vary based on the public place and whether you are in Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac or Little Cayman. Read more.

Different businesses will also have different rules when it comes to masks or face coverings that must be followed on all three islands.

Preventative Measures First

“Social distancing and thorough attention to hygiene must continue to be practiced as the best form of defense,” says Dr Lee, Chief Medical Officer on the subject of masks in a press release from 1 April 2020.

What The Shortage Of Masks Means

There is a global shortage of medical grade masks. This means both surgical masks and N95 masks are in extremely short supply around the world.

Because of this shortage surgical masks and N95 masks should be saved for the following people:

- medical professionals
- those who are sick and showing symptoms

In allowing those who are sick and showing symptoms and medical professionals first access to both surgical and N95 masks we can help to protect our community - especially the elderly and vulnerable - and slow the spread of COVID-19 in the Cayman Islands.

When To Wear A Mask?

Because of the global shortage of surgical masks and N95 masks, we need to save masks for medical professionals and those who are sick and showing symptoms.

If you are not showing symptoms and are not a medical professional you are asked to wait until surgical masks or N95 masks are in more plentiful supply before using them.

Where Can I Get A Mask?

As of Friday, 22 May, 24,000 reusable cloth masks have been distributed in the Cayman Islands by the Community Policing Branch of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS). The RCIPS continue to distribute a further 41,000 masks door-to-door across Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman

Masks are also being provided to frontline workers such as people in RCIPS, Customs & Border Control, Cayman Islands Airports Authority, Water Authority, and more.

Can I Make My Own Mask?

Homemade masks can be used in public spaces to reduce the potential for droplet spread, which is the way COVID-19 is transmitted. We ask that residents remain considerate of the limitations of homemade masks.

Should you choose to make your own, the following website is a good starting point and provides advice on care and handling of homemade masks.

The Limitations Of Homemade Masks

Homemade masks are not medical devices. They are not regulated.

Where medical masks and respirators conform to certain standards depending on their application, homemade masks do not.

Because of this, homemade masks cannot be guaranteed to prevent all droplet spread if you come in contact with someone showing respiratory symptoms.

The limitations of homemade masks include:

- they have not been tested to recognised standards
- they are not likely to provide protection against virus-sized particles
- the edges are not designed to form a seal around the nose and mouth
- the fabrics are not the same as used in surgical masks or respirators
- they can be difficult to breathe through
- they may require frequent adjustment, increasing the amount of times your hands come into contact with your face and increasing the probability of infection.

How to Wear a Mask?

We understand that wearing a mask or face covering will be an adjustment for most people — it's not something we do normally. Here are some tips on how to wear a mask:

- the mask or face covering should fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
- you should be able to breathe through the mask or face covering although it may feel a little warm
- the mask or face covering should be secured above your nose and mouth (if the mask does not cover your nose and mouth it cannot protect from droplet spread
- you should avoid touching the mask or face covering and instead remove and secure it using the elastic or ties
- place the mask or face covering on a clean surface that you will later disinfect, do not place it on somewhere like a kitchen counter as this will contaminate it

How To Clean Your Mask

Cleaning your mask or face covering is vital. We know that COVID-19 can survive on multiple surfaces for a while, so it's important that your mask or face covering is cleaned before you wear it.

When you return home from being out in a public space like a supermarket, wash your mask like you would wash clothes. Hot water helps destroy the virus before you use it again.

Sharing a mask means you may be sharing a virus so it is important you do not share masks or face coverings.

What's The Difference Between A Face Mask And A Face Shield?

A face mask is worn over the nose and mouth and protects the airways. A face shield is essentially eye protection, extended down over the face. Face shields offer protection against splashes and droplets landing on the face but does not protect the airways.

What Is The Guidance For The Use Of Masks In Health Care Settings?

As per the recent interim guidance by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Ministry of Health advises the public and health workers of the new updates regarding the use of masks in health care settings (including long-term and residential facilities).

Note: Health workers are all people primarily engaged in actions with the primary intent of
enhancing health. Examples are: Nursing and midwifery professionals, doctors, cleaners, other staff who work in health facilities, social workers, community health workers, etc.

In the absence of Aerosol Generating Procedures (AGPs):

Health workers providing direct care to COVID-19 patients should wear a medical mask (in addition to other PPE that are part of droplet and contact precautions).

In care settings for COVID-19 patients where AGPs are performed (e.g. COVID-19
intensive and semi-intensive care units):

- Health workers should wear a respirator (N95 or FFP2 or FFP3 standard or equivalent).

In the context of locations/areas with known or suspected community transmission or intense outbreaks of COVID-19:

- Health workers, including community health workers and caregivers, who work in
- clinical areas should continuously wear a medical mask during their routine
- activities throughout the entire shift; apart from when eating and drinking and
- changing their medical mask after caring for a patient who requires
- droplet/contact precautions for other reasons.

The Most Important Thing

Masks (surgical or non-surgical) can only work in combination with frequent handwashing with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub and social distancing, which means keeping six feet or two metres away from other people, at all times.

The following ways have been documented as the most effective measures in reducing the transmission of COVID-19:

Frequently cleanse hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
Cough or sneeze in a tissue and bin it.

If a tissue is not available, cough/sneeze into your elbow and not your hands (with or without a mask).
Stay home as much as possible, only leave for essential trips.

Practice social distancing, six feet or two metres away from other people, at all times.

Masks may be used in public but must be accompanied with other prevention measures listed previously.


Quote of the Day

There are two types of people who will tell you that you cannot make a difference in this world: those who are afraid to try and those who are afraid you will succeed.

Ray Goforth
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