Vt. health officials now encouraging face masks for all

Published: Apr. 3, 2020 at 9:58 AM EDT
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You should be wearing a mask, or covering your face, when you're out in public. That's the new directive from the Vermont Health Department Friday, and the CDC is expected to issue similar guidance soon.

A visibly growing number of Vermonters over the past week have started to wear masks or other face coverings when they are out and about.

"I've never looked so good," said shopper Leslie Nakashima, who wore a mask to up taquitos and wine at Trader Joe's in South Burlington Friday. She's encouraged to see more people covering their mouths to slow the spread of COVID-19. "Now I think people are taking it seriously, where I don't think they were taking it seriously before."

"I started a couple days ago," said Jean Sievert, who bought some masks in January. She just donated her N95s, but kept others to wear outside.

"I think it's a fantastic idea. I think if we were all doing this earlier we wouldn't be in the same boat. There's a reason why in Asia they've probably had better success containing this. It just makes really good sense."

Her husband is using a bandanna. The finer details of what kind of cloth covering you should use are still in the works, but Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says it's to block droplets that might come out of your mouth, because you can spread the virus for 48 hours before you feel any symptoms. "The reason for wearing a mask or the facial covering is to protect others around you in case you are in that pre-symptomatic infectious phase," he said.

Levine says it's important to note that while people should wear some sort of mask or face covering while out in public, they are not saying that they should stop social distancing. In fact, they say part of the success Vermont has had in keeping that curve flatter shows that it's working, and that it's vital to double down on those efforts.

"I want to be clear, this is not a substitute for staying home and it is not an excuse to mingle with others," said Gov. Phil Scott Friday.

We asked people we saw who weren't wearing masks when they would start.

"If I knew where to get some, I would," said Chris Elperfeld. He says his girlfriend is a nurse and already gave him the advice on how to wear a mask correctly once he's able to find one. "She just told me to be careful, make sure it wraps all the way around, and the loops behind the ears have a nice snug fit. And don't use them over and over again."

It's important to underscore that health officials say you need to leave the N95s for people on the front lines in hospitals and other medical settings who need those specific kinds of protections.