PITTSFIELD, Mass. - In conjunction with the newly updated recommendation on the use of protective masks from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), City of Pittsfield health officials are advising the public to use masks or cloths in public settings which pose a higher risk for community spread of COVID-19.

“This new update from the CDC is based on the fact that facial masks can help to protect one’s self and to prevent it from spreading to others. It goes both ways,” said Dr. Alan Kulberg, chair of the Pittsfield Board of Health.

In light of the ongoing critical need among healthcare professionals and first responders for surgical and N-95 masks, the CDC is advising the use of “simple cloth face coverings,” which can either be homemade masks or other alternatives that can serve as a protective measure.

The CDC’s new recommendation is based on recent studies that determine a “significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (asymptomatic) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms,” according to its website. Because of these facts, every person should consider every other person to be potentially contagious, even if they appear well or say that they feel well, said Kulberg.

The public settings include areas where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and other indoor locations that may be frequented for essential services.

It's important to note, however, that this guidance has a very specific purpose and there is room for personal discretion, notes Kulberg.

“We want the public to keep this guidance in mind when thinking about donning a mask or protective facial cloth. If you are going into the woods for a solo walk and aren’t surrounded by others, a mask is not necessarily needed,” he said. “However, if you are going to be in an area where there is any possibility that you will come into close contact with others, including worksites, then you will want to protect yourself and others.”

While masks offer an element of protection, they do not serve as a replacement for social distancing and good hygiene, including frequent handwashing and not touching one’s face. To see a list of frequently asked questions on the use of masks, please go here.

To stay connected to city updates on the coronavirus, a COVID-19 link is available on the homepage of the city’s website and will feature continuous updates from the city. The public is also encouraged to use the subscription service to receive a notification when a new update from the city is available and sign up for CodeRED.

For more information, please contact Roberta McCulloch-Dews, Director of Administrative Services, Office of the Mayor, 413-499-9322.

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