Concerns continue to increase here in the United States over the coronavirus. Many people are wearing face masks in public areas, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says wearing a mask to protect against this new coronavirus is unnecessary. In fact, wearing a mask is not even recommended for the general population during flu season because there is not much evidence it has any benefit. Federal health officials continue to reassure the public that the risk of the virus widely spreading in the U.S. remains low. With the increasing concern from the public, face masks are selling out in stores across the Coachella Valley.
Michael Connors, an infection preventionist with Eisenhower Medical Center, took the time to speak with News Channel 3 on the topic. “The biggest concern is right now there isn’t any indication for the general public to be on that level of alert and wearing masks," Connors said.
Connors said the better strategy with these masks is for people who are already sick to be wearing them. He also mentions that there is a specific way to wear these masks. In order for them to be effective, they need to be changed every 20 minutes so they don't become moist.
There are two main versions of this mask. There is the generic surgical mask and the N95. The surgical masks help to keep out large particles from getting into the airway or, in the case of surgery, out of the surgeon into the surgical area. The N95 is the more protective of the two but more difficult to wear.
"The difficulty with those is they become difficult to breathe through very quickly," Connor said about the N95 masks. "They are difficult to breathe through during any length of time.”
“More people are dying of flu than have died of the coronavirus,” Connors said.
The same things you do to keep yourself safe from the flu are the same things you should be doing to keep yourself safe from the coronavirus. Connors urged people to get lots of rest and fluids, to wash your hands, and avoid going out when you’re sick and being around sick people.
We spoke to one winter resident in the Coachella Valley, Johanna Tonino, who is not planning on buying a face mask just yet.
“If the need came where we needed to use it, I probably would buy one,” Tonino said.
If the need arises for the public to wear these masks, Eisenhower staff say the hospital will be made aware by public health officials or the CDC.
"Take your cues from them. If it becomes time where they think that other precautions are necessary they will let us know," Connors said.
For more information on the coronavirus you can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.