Gov. Roy Cooper's plans for reopening North Carolina K-12 public schools  in August includes new COVID-19 safety precautions, limited class sizes and a mask requirement for students, teachers and staff. 

Yolanda Enrich FNP at Novant Health Adult Primary Care in Waughtown
Yolanda Enrich, FNP.

Plan C, a remote learning option, will be available for students and local school districts to opt into on a case-by-case basis. To help slow the spread of the coronavirus, Cooper also announced that phase two of the state’s reopen plan will be extended for another three weeks. 

But some parents wonder if these precautions are enough to keep their children safe from COVID-19.

Yolanda Enrich, a family nurse practitioner at Novant Health Adult Primary Care Waughtown in Winston-Salem, appreciates the uncertainty of the situation. She’s been on the front lines treating patients with COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Here she offers advice for keeping you and your children safe. She also answers questions from readers on other mask-related issues.

If my children wear a mask, is it safe for them to go back to school?

Everyone wants to be able to get back to life as normal, and for students that means going back to school safely. It’s also important to remember that in-person learning provides students with vital services, including counseling and behavioral health support, meals and other resources. Plan B allows for in-person instruction supplemented by virtual learning, which will help schools maintain safety measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Of course, we still know that the more an individual interacts with others, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. So, it’s important to remind children as they go back to school to social distance, wear a mask and practice frequent hand washing to help slow the spread.

Is it safe for my child to go back to college?

The CDC has issued some considerations for institutions. But common sense also comes into play here. Again, the more an individual interacts with others, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. So, whether your student is returning to a dorm room, going to class or eating in the dining hall, it’s important to remember to social distance, wear a mask and practice frequent hand washing.

Any advice for getting my adult children to wear a mask, they think we’re overreacting.

Encourage them to wear a mask to protect not only themselves but others. Be clear and kind about your concerns of them wearing a mask.   

I’ve heard that masks don’t work, so why should I wear one?

Wearing a mask helps prevent you from inadvertently spreading the disease if you have COVID-19 but don’t have any symptoms. We know that the virus is spread through respiratory droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs, talks or sneezes. Emerging evidence shows that cloth face coverings help reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth. It also offers some protection to yourself.

Should I use a filter in my cloth mask?

Make sure your mask is made of at least two layers of dense cotton fabric, adding a filter may improve effectiveness.

What should I do if I need to sneeze or cough when I’ve got my mask on?

Even if wearing a mask, continue to sneeze and/or cough covering your mouth with your elbow, and change your mask as soon as you can. 

In addition to my mask, should I be wearing goggles and/or a face shield?

The CDC has made the following recommendations. It is not known if face shields provide any benefit as a control to protect others from the spray of respiratory particles. CDC does not recommend use of face shields for normal everyday activities or as a substitute for cloth face coverings. Some people may choose to use a face shield when sustained close contact with other people is expected. If face shields are used without a mask, they should wrap around the sides of the wearer’s face and extend below the chin. Disposable face shields should only be worn for a single use. Reusable face shields should be cleaned and disinfected after each use. Plastic face shields for newborns and infants are not recommended.

Can I microwave my mask to kill germs?

No. That can actually be a fire hazard. Instead, follow the CDC guidelines on how to wash a cloth mask. It is recommended to wash your face covering with your regular laundry. Use regular laundry detergent and the warmest appropriate water setting for the cloth used to make the face covering. Use the highest heat setting and leave in the dryer until completely dry. If air drying, lie flat and allow to completely dry. If possible, place the cloth face covering in direct sunlight.

If I go out to a restaurant, is it OK for me to take my mask off and eat?

If you want to go to a restaurant, of course you can take your mask off to eat. However, you need to be mindful of social distancing and how well that can be achieved at the restaurant. It may increase the risk of exposure. If possible, it’s still best to order takeout or try to eat outside on the patio. If you don’t see other customers or wait staff taking COVID-19 precautions seriously, you might consider eating elsewhere.

What kind of face covering is better – paper or cloth?

The CDC recommends cloth masks.

Does wearing a mask all day cause a buildup of carbon dioxide?

No. The mask should not cause any issues with your breathing and/or oxygen levels. If you find it difficult to breathe, your mask may be too tight. It should fit snugly around your face, nose and chin.

I know I’m supposed to get my temperature checked when I go to the doctor’s office, but what is the acceptable/ normal temperature range? And what happens if my temperature is elevated?

Normal body temperature is 98.6. If your temperature is elevated, you should contact your primary care provider’s office for further instructions. If you are experiencing a life-threating event, you should call 911.

For answers to more of your questions on masking and how they keep us safe click here.