JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — State health officials on Friday recommended Alaskans wear cloth face coverings in certain public areas to help limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Use of face coverings was not mandated, and the state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, said the best thing residents can do is stay a minimum of 6 feet (1.8 meters) away from others. But she said if they must go out in public — to the grocery store, for example — they should consider wearing a covering over their nose and mouth.
This is in line with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which said studies indicate that many people with the virus lack symptoms. Alaska’s health alert says the main purpose of the coverings is to reduce the release of respiratory droplets into the air when a person speaks, coughs or sneezes.
The state cautions against developing a “false sense of security” through use of the coverings, which it says are not meant as substitutes for social distancing, washing hands and staying home when you’re sick. But the alert says cloth coverings may be helpful along with those steps.
The alert recommends wearing the coverings in public areas where other social distancing measures are hard to maintain.
Alaskans should not wear medical or surgical masks needed by health care workers and first responders, the alert states.
For many people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
The state health department earlier this week announced it received 60 ventilators from the national stockpile and was working with Providence Health and Services Alaska to test them. Zink said Providence verified 20 of those. Officials are working through the remaining 40 and “a couple” so far appear to have issues, Zink said. Work is under way to see how well the ventilators “work or don’t work,” she said.
Nationally, some states and cities have reported problems with supplies shipped to them from the nation’s medical stockpile.