We are screening and restricting access to the hospital. Learn about our COVID-19 patient and visitor guidelines and the COVID-19 vaccine.

Staying safe as we reopen

Wearing a facemask is still critically important

As stay-home orders are being gradually eased and more and more people are venturing out into public, it is still critically important to follow social distancing recommendations, frequently wash your hands and to wear a cloth facemask. A significant number of people infected with COVID-19 lack symptoms and can unknowingly spread the virus to others. Wearing a facemask in public settings like the grocery store can help reduce the spread of the disease and protect older people and those with health conditions who are at greater risk.

Gritman Medical Center’s chief medical officer, Dr. John Brown, discusses why and when you should wear a facemask:

Q: Is it still necessary to wear a facemask?
A: Yes, it is one of the tools we have at our disposal to help slow the spread of the virus. We are too early in the course of this epidemic to say it is all safe and all clear, go back to normal life. We have been very fortunate to have very few cases on the Palouse, but that also probably means we have a large population that is still vulnerable to this disease, catching it and spreading it. We need to continue to take precautions as we reopen our society. As people start to reopen their stores and as people want to go out and enjoy recreational activities, wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing is going to be very important.

Q: But I have heard facemasks won’t really protect me from COVID-19?
A: Wearing a mask is probably one of the easiest and simple things a person can do to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. We know the disease is spread by droplets, and even a cloth mask can help prevent the spread of droplets. They can help keep you from accidentally spreading it to other people should you be infected and not know it. If everyone is wearing a mask, it will greatly decrease the spread of the virus. Wearing masks and keeping a distance of at least 6 feet from others provides an even great degree of protection.

Q: When I’m outside, do I still need to wear a mask?
A: The outdoors certainly seems to be a safer environment, but it is not completely safe. If you stand within a few feet of somebody and are having a vigorous conversation or talk or sneeze and there are no masks, there’s a very good chance if one of the parties is infected they will spread it to the other person.

Q: What if I am out for a hike?
A: There’s plenty of space in the outdoors, so it is pretty easy to do social distancing. I think you have to use good common sense about whether you want to wear a mask if you are the only one on a trail, but it is probably good to have one with you should you come upon a group of people who you want to chat with for a while. Use common sense and be aware that we are not out of the woods. We are still in a period where wearing a mask is a good idea. Also, keep in mind that we have vulnerable people in the community, and if you are not wearing a mask and wandering around, those vulnerable people may not appreciate that as it places them at greater risk.

Q: Should children be wearing masks?
A: Children under 2 should not wear them – the risk of choking and other things is way too high. For children older than 2, it is recommended by the CDC that cloth masks be used.

As we know, the virus can be spread by touching your face and your mouth, and also by touching surfaces that are infected and then rubbing your eyes or nose or touching your mouth. Children are notorious for loving to have their hands all over their faces, so masks will help keep them from exposing themselves as much.

Q: Does Gritman still need donations of cloth masks?
A: Yes – and we are grateful for how the community has risen to challenge. Our clinical staff are incredibly grateful to everyone who is helping us keep our hospital safe by making masks. Based on our current use and estimates, we have set a target of 8,000 facemasks – and we are halfway there. You can find more information on our needs, patterns and tips at gritman.org/facemask. You can also contact our volunteer services coordinator, Kim Malm, with any questions at gro.n1623851106amtir1623851106g@mla1623851106m.mik1623851106 or 208-883-5520.