COVID-19 and Face Masks for Secondary Students
Information on COVID-19 and Face Masks for Middle & High School Students
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended wearing face masks when in public settings where physical distancing measures cannot be maintained, such as grocery stores. The official decision about face masks in schools for the upcoming school year has not been made at this time. Here’s information to consider as stay-at-home orders fluctuate. The spread of the virus is monitored, and rules may change based on infection rates.
Masks, Feelings & Friends
Since when is caring for others not cool? If caring for others isn’t cool, let me be square!
What if I’m the only one wearing a mask? I will feel like everyone is staring at me.
Remember, wearing a face mask reduces the spread, so by wearing one, you are protecting others. Seeing people in masks is new and different and takes time and understanding to get used to. Give yourself and others time to accept this change. Try not to take looks or comments personally. It is not possible to know what someone else is thinking. Ease tension by making eye contact and greeting others, and even acknowledge the strangeness of masks. Keep a journal to express feelings. Share feelings with a close parent, sibling, friend, teacher, or trusted adult.
I saw someone teasing another student for wearing a face mask.
It is hard to witness verbal or physical aggression, and even harder to be the victim. Remember that calling out and standing up for others who are being ridiculed helps reduce bullying. Posture helps communicate confidence. Being knowledgeable about the disease and how it is spread can reduce confusion and misunderstanding.
It is hard to read or express feelings when facial expressions are hidden.
That is true. People will have to rely more on asking about others’ feelings and sharing their own. Eye contact, body language, posture, and hand gestures also help with communication.
Young people don’t get severely ill from Covid-19, so I don’t need to worry.
It’s true that Covid-19 is more serious for people over age 60 and people with other health problems, but young people aren’t the only ones in the community, such as in a school building. Young people may have the virus and not show symptoms and still spread it to others, such as older family members. And, some young people have had severe illness, so it is worth staying safe and protected.
I look better if the face mask just covers my mouth, I’ll let my nose be above it.
Droplets are spread from the respiratory tract, which includes the nose. Touching the mask to adjust it may spread germs. Touch only the ties or ear loops. Wash hands before and after wearing. Put your mask in a safe, clean place when not in use; launder daily or if soiled.
Why are people so worried about Covid-19?
This particular virus is “novel,” which means new, and humans haven’t developed immunity to it over time, nor is there a vaccine available yet.
This illness can be very severe in people of all ages and can spread before people show symptoms such as cough or fever.
Scientists theorize that every person with the virus can spread it to two or three others, which causes rapid spread throughout a population. When a virus spreads that quickly, the number of people who need hospitals exceeds the healthcare system’s capacity.
When can life return to normal?
Easing restrictions depends on reducing outbreaks or the availability of a vaccine to protect people. Scientists are working hard to make a safe vaccine. Until a vaccine is ready, disease spread is reduced with “non-pharmaceutical interventions,” such as staying home if sick, physical distancing, handwashing, and wearing masks. The initial stay-at-home order was successful in reducing the number of infections. Now some stores and businesses are slowly reopening. If the number of new cases remains stable or reduced, health officials may recommend lifting more restrictions. Everyday behaviors of people can help reduce the numbers of new infections and help us get back to a more normal life.
YOU have the power to stop the chain of infection!
Understanding the virus and knowing its weaknesses empowers YOU to protect yourself and others.
How does Covid-19 spread?
When people cough, sneeze, breathe, or talk, tiny droplets are released into the air. Droplets usually do not spread beyond six feet from someone; although, during running, biking, or other exercise requiring increased respiratory effort, droplets can travel up to 30 feet.
Droplets containing virus particles may enter a nearby person’s nose, mouth or eyes. The droplets containing the virus may also land on surfaces that others may touch and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth, which is another way the virus spreads.
Here are some strategies that help prevent the breathing in of droplets:
- Physically distance yourself from others by six feet or more and maintain that distance.
- Avoid situations in which it is impossible for people to avoid being close together, such as concerts and sporting events.
- Don’t let your hands be the vehicle the virus is looking for! Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
What are the virus’s weaknesses?
Covid-19, like some other viruses and bacteria, is protected by an outer envelope, or membrane. Without that layer of protection, germs cannot survive.
That envelope is destroyed by soap and other disinfectants. Check out this YouTube video for an example of how that happens: Artificial Virus Meets Soap.
Here are some strategies to exploit the virus’s weakness to soap:
- Wash hands frequently for at least 20 seconds.
- If soap and water are not handy, rub hands with hand sanitizer, also for 20 seconds.
- Wash surfaces and items frequently with soap and water or disinfectant.
How does wearing a face mask help?
If an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, the chance that their droplets will spread is reduced if they are wearing a mask. A cloth face covering is not intended to protect the wearer, but it may prevent the spread of virus from the wearer to others. Since people may be infected before they feel sick, if everyone wears a mask, it may increase protection for everyone. Wearing a mask shows concern for the health of others. If 60% of people wore masks, the spread of disease could be reduced. That’s similar to the protection a vaccine would provide. Until a safe vaccine is ready, wearing masks is an additional way to control spread.
Who has to wear a face mask, and when?
Masks are recommended by the CDC for everyone older than 2 years old when away from home in the community, such as at school, shopping, or among groups of people. Our leaders say wearing a mask while away from home is voluntary. For students, this means wearing a face mask is a choice their parent or guardian makes for them, or may be required by the school system or when seeking health care in the school clinic.
Is “physical distancing” still necessary?
Yes. Physical (or social) distancing means keeping six feet or more away from others. Mask wearing is not a substitute for keeping distance. An infected person may reduce the spread if wearing a mask, but if others are within six feet, they may still be exposed since cloth face masks aren’t fine enough to filter out all of the very tiny virus particles. N95 masks are designed for that level of protection, and due to limited availability, they are reserved for healthcare workers.
And, YES, hands still need frequent washing!
Coughing, sneezing and talking can cause droplets to land on tables, books, laptops and tablets. Imagine if someone touches those and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth. This is another way someone might catch the virus. So, keep those hands clean with frequent washing!
Also, practice not touching your eyes, nose and mouth, even if wearing a face mask. Face masks should also be laundered daily or if soiled.
Helpful Resources from the CDC:
- Frequently Asked Questions about Coronavirus (Covid-19)
- Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19
- How to Safely Wear and Take Off a Cloth Face Covering
- Cloth Face Coverings: Questions and Answers