Face masks have become a part of our lives after the novel coronavirus began to affect society.
In Utah, the rolling seven-day average for coronavirus cases recently exceeded 1,000 — higher than at any time during the pandemic. Across the country, several COVID-19 infection spikes have been linked to college campuses.
Ahead of the fall semester, Salt Lake Community College implemented several protocols, including a face covering requirement, to try and prevent an outbreak on campus. As of Oct. 1, contact tracing data provided by the school indicates 33 cases in the last seven days and 104 cumulative cases since Aug. 25.
Students and employees should be aware of the symptoms for COVID-19; anyone experiencing severe symptoms should seek medical care immediately and self-isolate for 14 days starting the day they notice symptoms.
“For students who have preexisting health conditions, they should take extra precautions by being selective of where they go, who they see and what they do,” said Whitney Ockey, health and promotions specialist at the Center for Health and Counseling. “The students with preexisting health conditions, which puts them at a greater risk for contracting the coronavirus, should monitor their health conditions daily and keep a thermometer nearby in order to take their temperature if needed.”
In order to get fresh air outdoors without wearing a mask, Ockey has some suggestions.
“To go for a walk, [have] a mask handy and put your mask on if an individual approaches you within 10 feet. It is beneficial to get air outside without wearing a mask two to three times a day,” Ockey said.
While a mask can guard against COVID-19, it needs to be worn properly to be effective.
“Face coverings are beneficial if worn correctly because they reduce the chance of droplets from reaching another individual or surface; wearing a face mask incorrectly does not prevent you from getting COVID-19,” Ockey said.
Terri Mehlhoff, the clinic manager of the Center for Health and Counseling, encourages everyone to think about how they wear and handle their masks.
“A face mask should have no gaps and cover both your nose and mouth. If you are using a mask for protection, you need to assume that mask is contaminated,” Mehlhoff said. “You should always put it on and take it off with the ear loops. You should avoid touching it and adjusting it as much as you can. If you have to touch it, you have to wash your hands because you are assuming the outside of it is contaminated. Masks have to be washed as soon as they are moist.”
While the Center for Health and Counseling has temporarily closed its South City and Jordan clinics because of COVID-19, the Taylorsville Redwood location remains open to assist students and employees with health care needs.
“The Center for Health and Counseling is a resource for students, staff, and faculty. The Center for Health and Counseling offers low-cost services including medical services, counseling, and massage therapy. The center is an affordable alternative for students who do not have insurance and are unable to afford to go to a doctor’s office,” Ockey said.
Due to the changing news regarding the coronavirus, students should stay up to date with the COVID-19 pandemic. Updated information can be access through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or #SLCCSafe.
An earlier version of this story originally appeared in the 2020 back to school issue.