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VERIFY: Discarded masks and your risk for COVID-19

You should make sure your used mask makes it to the trash and is disposed of properly.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Even though the daily COVID-19 case counts are on the decline in Ohio, a visual sign of the pandemic remains: masks littered everywhere.

We've been wearing them for more than a year and a half and many end up on the sidewalk or in parking lots, regardless of whether or not we mean to lose them.

Do these discarded masks pose a risk to our health?

QUESTION: 

Can a discarded mask transmit COVID-19? Do they pose a risk to our health?

ANSWER: 

No, not if you don’t come into contact with it.

SOURCES:

 Dr. Joseph Gastaldo, medical director for infectious diseases at OhioHealth

WHAT WE FOUND: 

Dr. Gastaldo said the one way to keep in mind is that COVID-19 is a respiratory virus. 

"A predominant way that it's spread is when someone coughs or sneezes or talks," he explained.

Dr. Gastalado also said that bigger particles travel a couple of meters and then they fall to the ground. Smaller particles can stay suspended longer.

So when it comes to a mask laying on the ground, you're not going to catch the virus from it being there.

"Think of a mask that's discarded like a piece of trash. If you pick up a piece of trash I would advise you to sanitize your hands after picking up the piece of trash and throwing it out,” said Dr. Gastaldo.

But what if you come into contact with someone else's used mask?

“If you do wear a surgical mask, it should be only worn by you and not somebody else," Dr. Gastaldo explained. "Theoretically, somebody could have a germ, this virus or other things and a mask and you could really put yourself at risk if you're wearing somebody else's mask in the setting of there being other germs on there."

Bottom line: make sure you throw your surgical masks away when you're done using them.

Littering is a crime in Ohio, whether or not it was intentional, and you could pay fines if you are caught. 

Have something you’d like us to verify? Send us an e-mail to verify at 10TV.com.

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