Donna Barron, RN | Health Matters: When to wear a mask

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When SVMC staff members go out in public, they notice many people wearing masks appropriately and a few who are not wearing them as directed. Some of the non-compliance, it seems, may relate to confusion about when a mask is necessary and why.

The risks can be determined by evaluating your likelihood to encounter people who are ill or those outside your household, how many people you will encounter, how close you are likely to get to others, and how long you will be near them. Above is a helpful guide for getting it straight.Based on the risks—your likelihood to encounter people who are ill or those outside your household, how many people you will encounter, how close you are likely to get to others, and how long you will be near them—the greatest risk is being a healthcare worker. Which is why we wear our masks, eye protection (face shields or googles) and other protective equipment the entire time we are working.

Wearing your mask at the appropriate moments is key to minimize your risk of exposure and the risk that you will expose others. Together with limiting visits, distancing, and handwashing, good mask-wearing habits will lessen how many people become infected with COVID-19.

Donna Barron, RN, is the infection preventionist at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center.

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