Across the United States and around the world, face masks are highly recommended, if not required, when going out in public. Some people wear masks; some wear gloves. Others wear both. While wearing a mask helps protect others from potentially being exposed to deadly COVID-19, we need to be aware of proper protocols for disposing of these daily-use items. Littering of personal protective equipment (PPE) is causing another potential public health crisis.
Ever seen a dirty diaper tossed in the middle of a crowded mall parking lot? It’s disgusting. It’s also a health hazard. The same goes for used masks and gloves. More and more grocery carts and parking lots are being filled with gloves and masks all over the ground. What if the person wearing the mask had COVID-19? Would the person picking up the used mask be potentially exposed? What about the public health risk of littering?
Just as all of us are fearlessly cleaning our homes and sanitizing our hands to keep us free from germs, the same protocols need to be followed while out in public. Slowing the spread of COVID-19 is a group effort. Everyone must do their part. COVID-19 is still out there. Together, we’ve done an excellent job at slowing the curve. COVID-19 cases are down at New Orleans hospitals and around the world. However, we must continue this trend for many more months until a vaccine is available.
When you wear gloves, each thing you touch leaves germ residue on the glove. Taking off the glove properly, keeps the germs on the glove and not on your hand. If you take the glove off incorrectly, you expose yourself to everything you were trying to protect yourself against by wearing the glove. The CDC offers this recommendation for properly doffing gloves.
First, hold the glove you just removed in your gloved hand. Peel off the second glove by putting your fingers inside the glove at the top of your wrist. Turn the second glove inside out while pulling it away from your body, leaving the first glove inside the second. Dispose of the gloves safely. If a public garbage can is nearby, throw the gloves away in the can. The key being make sure the gloves go into the can, not next to the can.
If you wear a face mask and feel that your mask has seen its last hoorah, either take the mask home and dispose of it in your garbage bag or dispose of it in a public garbage can. When taking off your mask, sanitize your hands first. The CDC recommends that you not touch the mask itself. Pull the mask off by your ears. This will prevent contaminating your mask.
As you head out to do your shopping or just to get out of the house and soak up some sun, remember to mask up and dispose of your PPE properly. We’re already fighting one public health crisis with COVID-19, let’s avoid creating another. Don’t litter.