Health district asking Tri-Cities residents to wear face coverings in public

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TRI-CITIES, Wash. — The Benton-Franklin Health District is recommending that all individuals wear face coverings any time they leave home for essential needs like grocery store shopping and doctor’s appointments. Essential workers are advised to do the same in places of business.

The face coverings should not be hospital grade but should cover the nose and mouth. Bandanas, fabric masks, neck gaiters and homemade coverings are acceptable.

“To be effective, masks should be worn consistently and properly so as not to contaminate the hands or face of the user. Fabric coverings should be changed when moist and washed after use. Coverings that have been worn may be contaminated with infectious agents,” the health district said.

Medical masks should be reserved for healthcare providers who are on the front lines, the district said, adding that there is a shortage of medical-grade masks and it’s critically important that our healthcare workers have the equipment they need to do their jobs.

Before Friday, local officials have not recommended the large-scale use of face coverings, but circumstances have changed. It’s believed that transmission occurs primarily through droplets from an infected individual, which fabrics may easily filter. This not only reduces the risk for a well person who can breathe in droplets, but also protects others around individuals with mild symptoms who may not yet realize they have the illness.

Staying home and avoiding all non-essential contact with others continues to be the most important thing all of us can do to stay healthy and keep others healthy, the health district said.

If you must go out, stay at least six feet apart from others at all times. Frequent hand washing, physical distancing and staying home are the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19.