Coronavirus in Charlotte: Should you wear a mask at the grocery store?

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After weeks of various health advice nationwide, Mecklenburg County officials are now saying that people should wear cloth blankets when they go to grocery stores, pharmacies and other public places.

Indications come as state health officials note that the rate of spread of COVID-19 has likely slowed, and hospitals in Charlotte Novant and Atrium say they may not need a hospital for campaign of 600 beds after all.

However, Mecklenburg County health officials say there is a “significant community spread” of the coronavirus locally. And the guidelines are in line with the latest news from the CDC, which recommends that people wear a mask in public places where social distancing is difficult, if not impossible, to guarantee.

The county public health department’s advice, released on Wednesday, comes a day after director Gibbie Harris told county commissioners that Mecklenburg was “unable” to provide residents with enough masks. Healthcare workers and other frontline workers must provide N95 respirators and other personal protective equipment.

However, it is advantageous for each resident to cover his face in public.

“In case you are contagious and can pass it on to others,” she said on Tuesday. Also on Tuesday, Harris warned that the Charlotte community could back off from social or physical distancing – something that health officials have repeatedly said as an effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“More people on the road (up) since last week,” said Harris.

Masks in public should help reduce the spread of the virus, but taking this action is no substitute for keeping at least 6 feet away in public, said the director of health this week.

Officials in at least two other counties in North Carolina have made similar recommendations locally since the CDC updated its guidelines. On April 9, Iredell County health officials recommended covering their faces in public. And officials from the Ashe County hospital system have issued similar advice.

Homemade masks can help

Harris said the public can use homemade masks – for example, “cotton fabrics sewn together” or bandanas – to cover their nose and mouth.

“There is evidence that people without symptoms can spread the virus,” says Mecklenburg’s opinion. “Droplets from breathing or speech can spread COVID-19 from person to person. Therefore, the use of cloth masks can help reduce the transmission of the virus. “

The final recommendation emphasizes that residents of the county of Mecklenburg must always comply with the local home stay order. People should only venture outside for “essential” activities, such as exercising, buying groceries, or caring for friends and relatives.

“Don’t stop social distance because you have a mask,” said Harris in a video posted on Mecklenburg County’s Twitter page on Wednesday.

“Part of the solution”

George Dunlap, president of the commissioners of the county of Mecklenburg, had implored Harris Tuesday to make a “final recommendation” on the cloth masks. Harris said “the advice on masks was variable” and she did not take a final position at Tuesday’s meeting. But the next day, Mecklenburg officially published the guide to the facial mask.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the use of cloth face covers earlier this month, however, noting that the practice was “particularly” critical in “areas of significant community transmission.”

And the Charlotte area transit system asked all bus and train drivers last week to start wearing face covers and sit at least 6 feet from each other. ‘other.

Elaine Powell, vice-president of Mecklenburg County commissioners, tweeted a photo of her last week wearing a patriotic mask.

“Please be part of the solution …” said Powell in the tweet. “My mom did this for me. We can flatten the curve, together! “

Harris warned that indications for the county mask “may change” depending on the trajectory of the local epidemic. More than 1,050 county residents tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday afternoon and there have so far been 19 deaths from COVID-19 in Mecklenburg.

County commissioner Susan Harden said wearing masks is probably just a starting point for extra precautions, such as asking people to wear gloves in public as well.

“The public should anticipate new or additional recommendations in terms of personal equipment and behavior to keep us safe as we think about easing the restrictions,” Harden said in an interview on Thursday.

County guidelines

Local officials say the N95 and other surgical masks remain “rare” and should be reserved for our medical providers and first responders. “

Cloth masks should be washed in hot water after each use, Harris told county commissioners on Tuesday. The masks should be completely dry before any additional use to limit potential exposure to the coronavirus, said Harris.

Microwaves should not be used to sterilize masks, she said.

Young children under the age of 2 should not wear face covers, and people who have difficulty breathing or who cannot remove their mask “without help” should also not, according to the Mecklenburg recommendation.

“Avoid fitting the mask by touching your face when the mask is in place,” says the recommendation. “Continue to practice frequent hand hygiene while wearing the mask. “

Officials said that when removing the mask, people should avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth – and wash their hands “immediately after.”

Residents can donate face masks and other personal protective equipment at several YMCA locations via CharMeckResponds.org.

Alison Kuznitz is a reporter for the Charlotte Observer who covers local government. She previously worked as an intern at the Boston Globe, Hartford Courant and Hearst Connecticut Media Group. She grew up in Connecticut and graduated from Penn State in 2019.



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