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May 7, 2020

Healthy Living and Mask Etiquette

There weren’t many professions before the COVID-19 crisis that necessitated using masks, but now or at least for now – it is an essential item for all of us. This protective gear comes with another steep learning curve, so in tonight’s Healthy Living, we unmask the proper way of using these face shields.



Marleni Cuellar, Reporting 

Since the first of May, it is mandatory for all Belizeans who leave their home to use some form of face covering. The science behind the face covers and its protection from the novel coronavirus are mixed, and the recommendations from health experts are the same. For example, the World Health Organisation maintains its recommendation that people should wear face masks if they are health care workers if they have respiratory symptoms or if they are caring for somebody with symptoms. While the US Center for Disease Control & Prevention recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are challenging to maintain. But in Belize, the only debate is wear a mask or face the very rigid consequences – a five thousand dollar fine or two years imprisonment. And as you move around public spaces it seems that by and large Belizeans have chosen to stick with the regulations. We see surgical masks, cloth masks, makeshift masks, even newspaper masks. What you’re also very likely to see is the improper use of masks. Pediatrician Dr. Cecilio Eck, he acknowledges that while these kinds of habits can be expected, they must also be corrected.


Dr. Cecilio Eck, Pediatrician

“Now we do know that with the COVID-19 and this novel virus coming up, we’re going through a learning curve.”

A learning curve that we all have to catch up on as everyday mask users. Doctors have a standard protocol for putting on, wearing, removing, and disposing of masks. Here’s Dr. Eck’s synopsis of proper mask etiquette. It ALWAYS starts with cleaning your hands first.


Cecilio Eck

Dr. Cecilio Eck

“The first one is the regular masks that are reusable that you can make at home and put all the different designs on them. Those are designed in most cases to prevent you from spreading the virus to me or to the people you encounter. It should not be tight that it leaves a mark on your face, but it should be comfortable enough for you to wear. Two: after putting it on, try your utmost best not to touch the front of the mask.  Don’t touch it. Don’t rub it, don’t move it as best as you can and I know it’s very, very difficult. Once you get home, do not touch the front of the mask. If you have someone to help, you let them remove it from the back, and then that mask goes into bin sometimes with bleach and water, and you launder it independently.”

The reusable masks can be dried and then reused.


Dr. Cecilio Eck

“For the N95 was for the surgical mask, the mask that protects the user, those are usually single-use masks. If it gets moist, you have to discard it. The surgeon put on a new one for each individual surgery because once it becomes moist, even if it dries, the integrity of the mask is gone.  The reasons you put on a mask is to prevent the virus from getting into the biggest openings in your body, your mouth, your nose, your eyes. If you touch it, you literally bring that virus that you’re to prevent literally to that surface, if the surface is wet, the virus can easily get in and infect you. That’s the reason why you get at home, and you remove it by the straps and discard it.”

He stresses that these masks are single-use only, and you should throw them out immediately after you take it off. As for children, here’s the pediatrician’s advice:


Dr. Cecilio Eck

“With the very young children, we know that it’s a hindrance to them; it can, in fact, a level of suffocation for them. It is a risk to young children especially to young ones who have underlying illness like heart disease or asthma; it makes no sense to put any hindrance in front of their noses. Certainly as well for kids who are under two who don’t have an understanding that this should be put on and remain there, they will touch it.  What we do to protect them is that we put it on the right way. Everybody around wears their mask the right way if they practice social distancing and wash your hands; theirs will be less at risk.”

Proper mask use starts and ends with clean hands, putting on the masks from the straps, ensuring that the mask fits snuggly and covers from the nose to chin, not touching the mask, removing once again from the straps only and discarding or disinfecting immediately after removal. Most importantly, masks are NOT a substitute for all other preventative practices.


Dr. Cecilio Eck

“This is a change a paradigm shift. We should start to think differently. We can look at china and know they were ahead of the game. Remember as well run between anything we do wash hands, wash hands, use detergent, try not to touch surfaces if you have to. The mask is but one of your ammunition in your armory that precast you. Social distancing remains the greatest thing that will protect us from the spread of the virus and cross-contamination. We also need to remember that there are other waves that may come. So we shouldn’t let our guard down.”

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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