What about driving, exercising? Your face mask questions answered

  • 2022-10-13
  • 909

As Melburnians come to grips with newly minted rules about wearing face masks, readers are asking ever more detailed questions about how they should comply. Do they have to be worn exercising? What about driving? Do they really have to be thrown away after one use?

We've tried to answer some of these questions below as well as including some tips on making and wearing masks. For a broader read on how to wear a mask, the styles and fabrics on offer and how to improve comfort, read this piece from last week.

Which masks are recommended and which are not?

The best masks for community use are triple-layered reusable cloth masks or disposable surgical masks. While the Department of Health and Human Services does not recommend relying on scarves or bandannas as alternatives to masks, they are better than nothing and considered acceptable to wear.

If you have trouble wearing a mask, you can wear a reusable or disposable face shield instead, provided it covers the sides of the face and below the chin.

The Department of Health and Human Services also does not recommend wearing P2 or N95 masks because supplies need to be preserved for medical professionals. Do not wear a mask that has holes or a valve, as this could result in you continuing to spread the virus if you are infected.

What's the best mask for all-day use?

If you’re a retail worker and working a long shift, a surgical mask is likely to remain effective for your shift, according to Andrew Orfanos, president of the Australian Institute of Occupational Hygienists. However, if you have to remove it on your break it would be best to replace it.

What is the best mask for exercise?

If you are exercising strenuously - think jogging, running or cycling - you do not have to wear a mask. You should, however, carry one with you.

What is the best way to dispose of a mask safely?

Masks can be safely disposed of in rubbish bins, but remember to sanitise your hands after touching the mask.

When am I allowed to remove my mask in public?

If you are travelling alone or with someone from your household in a car you do not need to wear a mask, but if you drive your car for work, such as deliveries, or if you drive with other people not from your household in the car, then you do need to wear a mask.

You do not have to wear your mask in the bank.

If you live outside of metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, the rules are not as tight.

The state government now encourages wearing a mask in situations where you are unable to maintain a social distance or if you must travel into metropolitan Melbourne or Mitchell Shire.

I can't reuse a surgical mask but what if I wear it for a very short time (say 5 minutes) do I really have to bin it?

In cases like this, you could reuse the mask in a public setting, however it is important to sanitise your hands after touching the mask. It is also important to not make a habit of this, as constantly touching and moving the mask undermines its effectiveness.

And with a surgical mask, is it blue side in or out?

Blue side out.

I made a mask using the three layers of fabric as specified, I couldn’t breathe even standing still in my home! I’ve now made one with just two layers of tightly woven fabric and breathing is better, but I’m concerned the mask won’t be effective. Any advice?

As the Premier said when discussing scarves and bandannas, it’s better than nothing.

What do you do if the 'one size fits all' masks are too small for your head?

If the surgical masks are too small, then it’s best to buy or make your own cloth mask, as they can be a lot more customisable.

Alternatively, a face shield may be a better fit.

Try to:

  • Wear either a reusable cloth mask, disposable surgical mask or face shield when out in public
  • Carry spare masks
  • Ensure your mask covers both your nose and mouth
  • Shave facial hair that doesn’t fit under your mask
  • Continue to maintain the 1.5 metre social distance wherever possible
  • Wash your reusable masks after every use
  • Replace your mask if it begins to fray or gets dirty

Try not to:

  • Touch your face while wearing a mask without first sanitising your hands
  • Remove your face mask to talk to people
  • Wear a scarf or bandanna as a substitute for a mask
  • Reuse a surgical mask
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