As Vermont slowly starts to open the spigot one-quarter turn at a time it’s important to remember that we are still under an executive and mandatory, “stay at home order.” This means Vermonters are still asked to be in their homes and limit trips to stores for only essentials.  As some people are returning to work with strict guidelines our Commissioner of Health Dr. Mark Levine comments, “That is a very challenging balance to strike.” One way we can find some stability is by wearing a facemask. Here at North Country Hospital, we’ve adopted the slogan, “if you’re walking, you’re wearing.”

Wearing a facemask is certainly one step towards that “new normal.” Facemasks are to be worn anytime we are outside the home, at work with other people, at stores and even when we are out for walks and bike rides, we should have them handy. This is more clearly described on  “The Health Department recommends that all Vermonters wear cloth face coverings when outside of the home to help slow the spread of COVID-19. This advice is based on new data about how COVID-19 can spread before a person has any symptoms. A mask helps protect others around you if you are infected and don’t know it. A face covering is one more precaution we can take to help slow the spread of COVID-19 – and is not a substitute for physical distancing and other prevention measures. You still need to stay at least 6 feet away from people, even when wearing a face covering. The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. These types of masks are critical supplies that must be reserved for our health care workers and first responders.”

While you may be like many of us wondering how we are just supposed to magically have these masks at our finger tips, you aren’t alone, and you are in luck. There are many things we all have on hand that can be used to make a personal safety device of our own. From bandanas to t-shirts there are ways to make your own facemask that will work just as well for being out in the community. There are also so many people locally making masks for free! So, reach out if you need some!

Just a few tips on these masks:

If you are walking, you are wearing – that’s our biggest tip here at NCH and we want you to take it seriously. Don’t wait for someone to ask you to wear one, don’t assume that others are comfortable without you wearing one.

Wear it. Walking your dog and talking to your neighbors? You need a mask. Going into to the store to grab one thing? You need a mask. Please help be a part of the solution and just wear it.

Second, if you’ve been wearing one, you need to wash one. Wash your mask in hot water after wearing it out. This is for cloth masks or those made with bandana’s etc. Obviously, if you were wearing a single-use one, we don’t recommend throwing that in the washing machine. If you think about it the side on your face is covered in your own germs and the outside is contaminated with all the things in the air and whatnot outside. After you take your mask off make sure to wash your hands really well too. The mask should be considered contaminated and after you take it off your hands are too. Don’t touch your eyes, mouth or really anything until you get a nice hot handwash in.

Thirdly, make sure you are wearing a mask that fits. It should fit snuggly on to the bridge of the nose and under the chin. It shouldn’t have gaping or lose parts. Think if it like a helmet for your head, you wouldn’t want to wear a loose helmet while out for a bike ride, that’s not safe! And a loose mask isn’t safe either.

Lastly, wear your mask with confidence and pride. The mask is like a badge that shows you not only care about your health but the health of others too! When you wear your mask, you are part of the solution that will help us to find our way back to stable ground in uncertain times. Your mask may not be comfortable, it may feel weird, but it’s something we can all do in a time where many of us feel helpless. Your selfless task is as easy as to wear a mask.

Please be part of the solution. Please respect that this is what we are being asked to do right now. Your facemask could literally save a life. As we know, the symptoms of coronavirus are ever-changing but we also know that many people can be carrying it without any symptoms. Do not assume that feeling well means you don’t need a mask. Wear it! Or as we say here at North Country Hospital, “if you’re walking, you’re wearing!”


Mary Hoadley

Director of the Wellness Center