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As We Watch Out For Coronavirus, A Silent Killer, Are Coloradans Wearing Masks Properly?

DENVER (CBS4) - We didn't see this coming in 2020, that we'd be in face masks everywhere we go. But it's the new reality of the time in the coronavirus pandemic.

Nicole O'nan told CBS4 she wears one outside her home because she thinks it's really important to protect herself as well as "all the people in the community."

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"We're all in this together," she said.

But it's not fun.

"Well I know it's inconvenient and they're not comfortable," she said.

For professionals, there's a sort of "grin and bear it" reaction with every trip to the grocery store, as described by UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital infectious disease specialist Dr. Michelle Barron.

"Of course I don't say anything but I sort of think about it. I'm like, how many times have you gone under your mask?"

There are plenty of examples to be found of bad mask-wearing practices: people wearing them with their nose exposed, pulling them down, pushing them back up. Barron says another example is "if you need to smell something or you just had an itch and you didn't really think about it. ... You didn't really think about where your hands had been five seconds before."

She suggests to initially ensure the mask is on correctly.

"Really for it to work, cover your nose, tighten it under your face, around your chin," she said.

Dr. Connie Price, chief medical officer at Denver Health Medical Center, has been working on a video to share procedures.

"You want to be careful not to contaminate your hands when you're putting it on," she notes.

It's important to remember that putting your hands around your face is a potentially big problem.

mask procedure
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"Grab it by the elastic straps or head straps whatever you have. Put it over your face. And carefully tuck it behind your ears or tie it behind your head," Price said.

Another bad habit for people is pulling it down to eat or drink. You can do that, but sanitize of wash your hands first.

Price says for most of us, a bandana will do the job. She suggests folding it over to double up.

"You have to remember we're trying to prevent transmission of these large respiratory droplets. That's how this is transmitted in normal settings," she said.

A bandana can catch those droplets you may expel. Remember, the greatest purpose for the mask is to protect others in case you are sick. Tests have shown many people with COVID-19 are not symptomatic. Medical workers need a different grade of mask. An N95 mask designates that it filters 95 percent of harmful particles. True medical masks are usually made to include polymer or resin fibers that attract large and small oppositely charged particles with an electrostatic charge.

"In the medical setting you want those to be validated masks that are appropriate for our setting and that are proven to have a certain filtration," she said.

She help up a mask that looked good, but lacked certification.

"Without a validation from an approved agency, I wouldn't trust it. However, you don't need that level of certification outside of a medical setting."

You can wear the same mask through the day, says Price, but be wary of excess moisture.

"If you're mask gets wet, moist, contaminated with other material, it's time to either take it off and either wash it or throw it away."

Paper masks cannot be washed, but cloth ones can be. The soap will kill the virus as will the heat of the dryer. "There also are some who promote baking at low temperatures maybe 120 or 130. If your oven goes that low you can try that but again watch it very carefully."

She says over 120 degrees the coronavirus is not likely to survive. The virus survives at cool temperatures, but not higher heat.

And Colorado's sunshine is a great disinfectant. While studies are still ongoing, Price believes 20 minutes of direct sun exposure, each side, should be good enough. None of it is easy and you have to learn a new discipline as we watch out for a silent killer.

"We have to shift into what I call a new normal," said Price.

If you have a Good Question for CBS4's Alan Gionet, you can e-mail it to He will try to report on as many as he can.

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