The Right Way to Wear a Mask and Gloves
Personal protective equipment is only as effective as the person wearing it. Here’s how to avoid cross-contamination.
On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed course and began recommending the use of cloth face masks in public places where maintaining social distancing may be difficult.
As Elemental previously reported, evidence supporting the use of cloth face masks isn’t great, but with studies showing that a large number of asymptomatic or presymptomatic people may be unknowingly transmitting the coronavirus, experts now believe cloth masks can help slow the spread. That’s because of the momentum of the air that comes out of your mouth when you’re coughing, sneezing, or breathing propels many of the infected particles into the mask or bandana.
“Some of what you exhale is going to get around the outside edges of the mask, but most of it is going to get caught right as it comes out,” says Thomas Fuller, ScD, CIH, CSP, associate professor of the Illinois State University Safety Program and an American Industrial Hygienist Association fellow. “Particles that small don’t bounce once they stick to something, so masks are pretty protective in catching the agent if someone’s infected.”
But they’re not foolproof. “If the person is infectious, and they breathe on a mask, the inside of that mask is going to be highly contaminated,” says Fuller. “So you have to handle them with caution.” And the same goes for disposable gloves, should you choose to wear them (the CDC has not yet recommended it).
“I teach a course where I have the nurses get dressed from head to toe in all the [PPE] gear and then I sprinkle them with glow powder.”
As a certified industrial hygienist and certified safety professional, it’s Fuller’s job to train health care workers on the proper protocol for putting on and taking off personal protective equipment (PPE), like N95 respirators and gloves, without cross-contaminating themselves.
“I teach a course where I have the nurses get dressed from head to toe in all the [PPE] gear and then I sprinkle them…