What mask you should wear, explained by health officials

Published: Jul. 24, 2020 at 3:40 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Elected officials throughout Alaska have been asking residents to wear masks. Some cities have required face coverings through the implementation of emergency orders or ordinances. At the state level, Gov. Mike Dunleavy has asked people to wear masks and required it of people in state facilities.

Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Anne Zink, said COVID-19 is being transmitted at every kind of event from sporting events and church services to home barbecues and funerals.

“Community transmission is occurring in almost every business type or every interaction that involves in-person to in-person interaction,” Zink said. “And that’s why that 6 feet apart, mask, handwashing makes such a difference.”

There are several different types of masks, and all of them are used in slightly different ways. Here’s what health officials say about what mask to wear and when.


N95 masks
N95 masks(KY3)

Kim Spink, DHSS nurse consultant, was one of three health care professionals to give a presentation on masks at the governor’s press conference Wednesday. She says N95 masks are highly regulated coverings used by health care professionals to protect workers from biological hazards.

“The idea behind wearing this N95 respirator is that, as you breathe, it goes through many layers and it filters out any of those biological hazards or aerosols,” Spink said.

The mask is a part of personal protective equipment and the industry is facing a shortage of these masks. Spink says people should save these masks for health care workers.

Surgical Masks


Surgical masks offer less protection from outside particles than an N95, but they are still nationally regulated and offer a higher level of protection than a cloth covering.

“It’s not the same filtration level, it doesn’t work the same exactly as an N95 but it’s still a very effective mask in many parts of the health care system,” Spink said.

The CDC says surgical masks are still critical supplies and should be reserved for health care workers and first responders.

Cloth Face Covering

Cloth coverings can prevent transmission of the virus.
Cloth coverings can prevent transmission of the virus. (KOTA)

Cloth face coverings are not made to meet national standards but they do serve an important purpose. They can help prevent a person with COVID-19 from spreading it to other people.

“We have some pretty good evidence from the studies that are coming out, that it is protective in terms of transmitting COVID from me to another person,” Spink said.

These masks are most effective when they are worn by most people. The mask must cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly at the sides in order to prevent the transmission of the virus from the mask-wearer to another person.

Anna Frick, DHSS research analyst, said if everyone wore a cloth face coverings consistently, it would reduce the number of COVID-19 exposures we have.

“If you’re just out and about in the community or working in another job, then it’s ok to wear something like a cloth face covering,” Frick said.

The CDC says surgical masks should not be substituted by cloth coverings for health care workers or first responders.

Cloth face coverings work best when combined with other prevention strategies. The mask doesn’t replace the need to social distance, limit contacts or wash hands.

“It’s additional protection; it’s an add on strategy,” Frick said.

Just like any article of clothing, Frick says masks need to be washed regularly, at least once a week.

DHSS Chief of Epidemiology, Dr. Joe McLaughlin, said the department is trying to encourage young adults to wear masks as this demographic has driven the state cases.

“Find some designs that really work for you, that you are really interested in wearing and please just wear your face covering any time you’re going to be around others,” McLaughlin said.

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