SUMMIT, NJ - John Staunton, the current President of the City of Summit Board of Health, a New Jersey EMT Instructor and member of the EMS Education Faculty with Atlantic Health System, has detailed his advice on the importance of wearing a mask / face covering during the COVID-19 pandemic and the most effective type of mask for the public to wear.

Staunton, who has also served as both President and Captain of the Summit First Aid Squad and is a former Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator, wrote the following:

"As our community prepares to return to normal life from month’s of isolation, it is important to remember to wear a face covering whenever in public, particularly when a safe distance of 6-feet cannot be maintained. A single-layer cloth mask is not designed to protect the wearer, but may help prevent you from spreading disease to those around you. A multi-layer mask provides more protection for both you and those around you; three layers are recommended.

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Keep in mind that no mask eliminates the need for frequent hand washing, which remains the best protection. It is also important to wash your mask often, preferably after each time it is worn outside your home. Placing the mask inside a mesh laundry bag will help it survive the washing machine. People who need to leave their house every day may want to have a spare mask to wear while the other is being washed.

We’ve heard a great deal about N-95 masks that are not intended for the general public. Initial guidance was to leave the limited supply available for health care providers. But, the reality is that an N-95 can be dangerous to an untrained person. The N-95 restricts breathing and is not designed to be worn for long periods of time, even by a trained person. Recently, a New Jersey man wearing an N-95 for several hours while driving passed out behind the wheel and caused a motor vehicle accident. People with respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis or emphysema should not wear an N-95 and are prohibited by OSHA from performing work that would require its use.

Some N-95 masks as well as industrial / canister respirators are equipped with an exhalation valve which allows the user to exhale with less exertion. The valve, however, has no filtering.  So, while such a respirator protects the user, it offers no protection to people around them. Using a respirator in public is NOT recommended.

A mask made from three layers of tightly woven cloth is best. Be sure to wash the mask before use, just as we generally wash new clothing before use, and don’t forget to wash it again after use. To be effective a mask must cover both the mouth and nose. Masks that don’t cover both are of little value. So, for your safety and the safety of those around you, before venturing out, get yourself a good facemask or two and don’t leave home without one."