Masks: Still a Great Stocking Stuffer
Ashley Jowett
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2021

Masks: Still a Great Stocking Stuffer

While we had all hoped to ditch the masks long ago, with Delta still going strong and the slow inevitable approach of Omicron, we could go on needing them for a while longer. And a lot has changed since we first started talking about masks. Here are the updates you need as you get (or give) masks this holiday season.

Go for fit first. Coming up on almost 2 years of the COVID pandemic, we know things now that we didn’t know in the beginning. For instance, the most important thing about a mask is how well it fits. If it gaps at the top, sides, or bottom, it’s not working as well as it should. Try twisting or knotting the ear loops to make it tighter or swap it out for a better fitting mask.

Next, evaluate comfort. The best mask for you is the one that you can wear for the entire grocery trip or shift comfortably and without having to readjust. If you do touch your mask, wash or sanitize your hands.

Medical-grade masks are OK. At the beginning of the pandemic, medical professionals were urging members of the public not to purchase medical-grade masks—including surgical masks and N95s—because they were in short supply. Thankfully, the supply issues for personal protective equipment have been resolved. Medical professionals have all they need, and there are additional ones available in stores. Surgical masks and N95s are more effective germ blockers than cloth masks, so they are much better for travel and other situations where you cannot avoid a crowd.

Any mask is better than no mask. Some things have not changed. Vaccination is the #1 COVID-mitigation strategy. Wearing a mask, any mask, in public, around unvaccinated people, and around people whose vaccination status you do not know is still an important way to protect yourself and others from COVID.

With our vaccinations, boosters, masks, avoiding crowds, washing our hands, and staying home when we are sick, we will all be more likely to have a joyful holiday season and a happy new year, in spite of what COVID throws at us.

Donna Barron, RN, is the infection preventionist at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care in Bennington.

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