As masks have become part of everyday wear, medical professionals at Cedars-Sinai offered tips Tuesday on proper useage, cleaning and disposal of face coverings to effectively slow the spread of COVID-19 infections.

“As California and other states begin loosening stay-at-home orders and reopening businesses, it’s likely that everyone will be encouraged to wear a mask in public for months to come,” experts at Cedars-Sinai said.

Proper use of masks is vital to their effectiveness. And doctors noted that masks alone are not enough to stop the spread of the virus, so combining the use of masks with other personal hygiene practices is imperative.

“Properly using a mask is just as important as actually wearing one,” said Dr. Rekha Murthy, an infectious disease specialist, vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer at Cedars-Sinai. “And possibly the most important thing to remember is that you should not rely solely on masks. Masks should be used in combination with other preventive measures, like washing your hands and practicing physical distancing.”

Before putting on or taking off a mask, which should cover both the nose and mounth, Murthy said it’s important to always wash your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizer.

“Once the mask is on, avoid touching your face at all,” Murthy added. “If you have to touch your mask for any reason, immediately clean your hands with sanitizer or soap and water before and after doing so.”

Face coverings also should be removed from behind, without touching the front of the mask, said registered nurse Carole Guinane, the executive director of ambulatory surgery center operations at Cedars-Sinai.

Single-use disposable masks should be discarded after use, Guinane said, but cloth masks may be reused if properly cleaned.

“They (cloth masks) should be cleaned in a washer and dryer as soon as they become damp,” she said.

The medical professionals also stressed the importance of reserving surgical masks and N95 respirators for healthcare workers.

“These types of personal protective equipment are in short supply and shouldn’t be used by members of the community,” Murthy said.

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