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Apr 08

City manager's message: COVID-19 Update on Wearing Masks and Distancing

Posted on April 8, 2020 at 11:40 AM by Don Mann

I am writing to give you a couple of updates on the COVID-19 pandemic as they relate to Hampton and our workforce. 

You have likely heard that the Hampton Roads Convention Center will be converted to an alternative care facility to ease the strain on local hospital systems. The Governor announced the selection of the Hampton-owned facility on Friday. We are in active, daily conversations with the State and Army Corps of Engineers to make this happen as quickly as possible. As details emerge, I will be glad to share updates with you all. 

The CDC continues to study the spread and effects of the novel coronavirus across the United States.  We now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms.  This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.  Cloth masks are believed to slow the spread of the virus by helping people who may have the virus, and do not know it, from transmitting it to others.  Additionally, these masks may provide some increased protection for the wearer just because they provide a barrier that otherwise would not be there and because they help people learn to not touch their face. 

As you know, this guidance was issued Friday afternoon.  I immediately enlisted the assistance of our emergency management and public safety logistics teams to ascertain how we could do our part to aid in this new effort to slow the spread.  Over the weekend, these teams contacted some of our local businesses and volunteer partners who geared up on Saturday and worked through Sunday to begin manufacturing CDC recommended masks.  These masks are being cleaned and packaged with CDC recommendations on proper wearing and cleaning techniques.  The first round of masks were distributed at lunchtime today.  We will continue to make the masks available to departments throughout the week by first targeting those departments that do not routinely issue personal protective equipment who have folks working out in the field.  We will then extend the distribution to the public safety departments as the cloth masks can be worn over surgical and N95 mask as a means of maintaining the cleanliness, and possibly extending the life,  of these medical grade masks that are in limited supply.  Then we will provide cloth masks to those who are working in city facilities.

When donning any type of mask, especially when trying to reduce the risk of illness, it’s important that the wearer ensures the side first used away from the wearer’s face always remains towards the environment. For example, imagine a mask that has blue on one side and red on the other. If the wearer first dons the mask with the red side facing outward toward others (and blue towards the face), the red side should always face outward (and the blue inward). If your mask is all one color, it is suggested the wearer clearly mark the mask to prevent confusion. It is also suggested this identical practice continue even after washing.

It is also critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains the most important measure to slowing the spread of the virus.  Wearing a mask of any type should not lull the wearer into feeling a false sense of security.  Our efforts to wear cloth masks when out in public areas, or when in offices or other areas where we are touching common surfaces, is an important step we can take to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and complements, but does not replace the cornerstone of our efforts – which is to avoid touching our faces; to wash our hands frequently with soap and water  – and for at least 20 seconds; and to socially distance.

As this pandemic continues, I stand committed to providing resources that are available and/or become available to the city for our employees in order to keep a healthy workforce in place to provide our essential government services.
I want to once again commend you all for your unwavering dedication to our community and residents during this unprecedented health crisis.

— Mary


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