COVID Herd

How should I clean and store my face mask?

Cloth face masks worn during the coronavirus pandemic should be washed regularly, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Public health experts recommend wearing a mask made from cotton fabric, such as T-shirts, or scarves and bandannas, when you are outside and unable to maintain social distancing from others.

The covering should be washed daily after use, says Penni Watts, an assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Nursing.

It is best to clean your mask in a washing machine or with soap and hot water. The mask should be dried completely. Dry it in a hot dryer, if possible.

Watts advises storing the clean, dry mask in a new paper bag to keep it safe from germs.

The CDC has urged people to use washable cloth coverings to ensure there are enough surgical and N95 masks for medical workers.

Can I get COVID-19 through my eyes or ears?

It’s possible through the eyes, but not likely through the ears.

As with the nose and mouth, doctors say the eyes may be a route of infection if someone with the virus coughs or sneezes nearby. Infection is also possible when rubbing your eyes with hands that have been exposed to the virus.

Tears from an infected person could also spread the virus.

Frequent hand washing, social distancing and the use of facial coverings in public are ways to keep the virus from spreading, including through the eyes.

Glasses may also offer added protection, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Health care workers are advised to use safety goggles when treating potentially infected patients.

Ears, on the other hand, are not believed to be a route of COVID-19 infection, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The skin in the outer ear canal is more like regular skin, unlike the tissue in the mouth, nose and sinuses. That creates a barrier that makes it difficult for the virus to enter, according to Dr. Benjamin Bleier at Massachusetts Eye and Ear in Boston.

Should runners wear a face mask outdoors?

It depends. You won’t always need a face covering while jogging or riding a bike if you’re exercising with no one around, but it’s good to carry one just in case.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people wear cloth face coverings when out in public, especially in places where it’s hard to stay at least 6 feet away from others.

If it’s difficult to breathe through a mask when running or doing other strenuous physical activity, find uncrowded trails or times to exercise when you won’t encounter others, says Mark Cameron, an infectious disease expert at Case Western Reserve University.

The more distance you can keep between yourself and others, the better, says Summer Johnson McGee, dean of the University of New Haven’s School of Health Sciences.

Masks are designed to prevent the wearer from possibly spreading the virus to others or being exposed themselves.

Will temperature checks of employees make workplaces safe?

No, not completely. They can help reduce the risk of COVID-19 infections but shouldn’t be the only safety measure employers take.

Some employers are following White House guidelines to screen workers for a fever with daily temperature checks to help prevent the spread of infections.

But screening for fevers alone won’t eliminate risk. People with the virus can be contagious without a fever, so it’s still important for employers to increase space between workers, disinfect surfaces and encourage hand washing.

A person’s temperature can be taken with a no-touch infrared thermometer pointed at the forehead, and workers can use the devices to take their own temperatures, using hand sanitizer before and after.

However, the accuracy of infrared thermometers can be thrown off by headbands or bandannas that make a person too hot, or by cosmetic wipes that cool the skin, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA says the thermometers should be used in a draft-free area and out of direct sunlight.

What’s a normal body temperature and what’s feverish? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives 100.4 degrees as a guideline for fever.

What can a COVID-19 antibody test tell me?

An antibody test might show if you had COVID-19 in the recent past, which most experts think gives people some protection from the virus. The tests are different from the nasal swab tests that determine if you’re currently sick.

But studies are still underway to determine what antibody level would be needed for immunity. It’s also not yet known how long any immunity might last. For now, the tests are most helpful for researchers trying to track how the virus spreads in communities.

Dozens of companies are making rapid antibody tests to help identify people who had the virus and may have developed some immunity to it.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration initially allowed companies to launch antibody tests with minimal oversight. After reports of faulty results and fraud emerged, the agency reversed course and is now requiring companies to show that their tests work.

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