McLennan County confirmed 271 new COVID-19 cases Friday, the third daily record in the past four days and the fourth-straight with new cases in the triple digits.
Local officials have urged residents to stay at home as much as possible and to remain only with people from their household as they celebrate Independence Day, though no mandatory stay-at-home order is in place. Gov. Greg Abbott implemented a statewide requirement Thursday to wear a face covering over the mouth and nose in public places, with few exceptions.
Since Sunday, 866 McLennan County residents have tested positive. Last week, 394 people tested positive, and the week before, 145 tested positive. When the county set a then-record-high of 15 new cases June 15, the total case count was 178.
Locally, 38 people are hospitalized with COVID-19. Friday's 271 new cases bring the total in the county to 1,563, which includes 1,258 residents with active infections, nine who have died and 296 who have recovered.
The local rate of tests coming back positive stood at 22% as of Thursday, according to an update posted to CovidWaco.com on Friday afternoon. That is up from about 1% as recently as June 10.
As the spread has accelerated locally, the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District turned over contact tracing duties to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
During a press conference Wednesday, Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver said a contact tracer had told him the vast majority of people she talks to who have tested positive “feel an overwhelming sense of guilt about who they have exposed to the disease.”
“They are so concerned about having exposed parents or grandparents or others who are vulnerable," Deaver said. "They’re not that concerned about themselves, but they’re scared. They’re scared that they will cause someone who they love to get very sick or even die. And they usually say, ‘I knew better. I just wanted to see my friends, so I did. Now look what I’ve done.’
"Please think about that and take it to heart. I know you have loved ones that you don’t want to bring this disease home to. It is up to each of us to keep in mind every single day we are facing this pandemic, and we have got to get used to it because it’s going to be with us for many months.”
5 tips for wearing face masks in hot weather
Choose your material
Wearing a mask can be hot and make breathing feel more difficult. With that in mind, you’ll want to make sure your mask is reasonably breathable to help both increase comfort and decrease the impulse to touch the mask to adjust it — which is a big no-no when out and about.
“You want a breathable fabric,” says Nicole Jochym, a third-year medical student at Cooper Medical School at Rowan University who works with the Sew Face Masks Philadelphia organization. Her recommendation: Using a mask that is made from 100% cotton. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, good options include woven cotton sheets and T-shirt fabric.
While cotton isn’t moisture-wicking, she says, it’s more breathable than synthetic fabrics like polyester, and it could make masks more comfortable in the heat. Avoid filters, Jochym adds, because they are often made from synthetic materials, and can make masks hotter and harder to breathe through.
Check the fit
Your mask should be somewhat snug on your face, but you don’t want it to be so tight that it’s uncomfortable or difficult to breathe through. To solve that issue, says Carrie L. Kovarik, an associate professor of dermatology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, try out different masks, or use one that has adjustable ties.
“A tie mask probably would be better. Elastic straps can be irritating behind the ear,” she says. “Don’t put it on so tight that you can’t breathe.”
Jochym seconds that, saying that Sew Face Masks Philadelphia encourages using ties because they are adjustable. “Every face shape is different,” she adds; ties have the potential for a better, more comfortable fit.
Cloth masks, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has noted, should not be worn when they become damp or wet, which could cause issues in the summer, when we’re all sweating more heavily. Because cotton masks will absorb sweat when you wear them, Jochym says, it is important to have several clean ones available to use.
“In Philadelphia’s hot and humid summers, it could be difficult to get around with just one,” she says. “You have to be able to switch it out as it gets damp on the inside.”
Kovarik adds that health-care workers are often advised to take a 15-minute break from wearing their mask every two hours to give their skin time to air out, which could mean using several masks per day. If you plan to swap your mask, she says, do it at home, or if that is not possible, in an area without other people. “You don’t want to take it off in the middle of everything,” she says.
And always follow proper mask removal techniques, including washing your hands and not touching the front of the mask.
Limit how long you wear one
If hot weather makes wearing a mask uncomfortable, try to limit the amount of time you need to wear one. Masks, the CDC says, should be worn in “public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain,” such as grocery stores and pharmacies.
“Think about when wearing a mask is necessary, and not wearing one when it is not needed,” Kovarik says. You may not need one when driving alone in your car, or sitting solo on your porch — as long as you are maintaining proper social distancing.
To help keep your mask time to a minimum, Jochym says, try planning effective routes to your destination, or plan your trips around the number of masks that you have available. And do not wear your mask off your nose when out in public.
Take care of your skin
Hot summer weather can cause moisture to build up under a mask, which can irritate your skin (similar to a diaper rash) Kovarik says. That problem, however, may be less common for people wearing cloth masks compared to health-care workers wearing less-breathable surgical or N95 masks.
“In hot weather, you will have a lot of moisture under there, and the skin can break down a little more,” she says. “Moisture from breath or heat builds up, and you can get a rash.”
If your skin does become irritated due to using a mask, Kovarik recommends using a noncomedogenic (non-pore-blocking) moisturizer — and avoid products like petroleum jelly. Apply your preferred salve after wearing a mask to help repair skin.
Additionally, Kovarik recommends not wearing makeup under a mask, as it could further clog your pores.
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