Monday the 3rd of August 2020
In addition to the Level 3 restrictions that were announced for Regional Victoria yesterday, from today (almost) everyone aged 12 and above must wear a face covering when they leave home.
When we talk, breath, cough, sneeze, or laugh, the large, wet, heavy respiratory droplets fall relatively quickly. If infected with a respiratory virus such as coronavirus or the flu, these droplets contaminate the surfaces on which they land. We also release smaller, floaty particles that will hang around in the air for longer periods of time. In poorly ventilated space, this might be for more than a day!
This video from the University of NSW is a great demonstration of how face coverings help reduce the contamination of the surfaces and air around us with potentially infected droplets and particles. This is particularly important in crowded and/or confined spaces, and when people are working close together.
We’ve seen COVID-19 on the rise in Southwest Victoria this last week, but remember that the numbers that are reported each day are infections that were caught up to 2 weeks ago. Masks and other face coverings are worn not only to lessen the chance of catching COVID-19, but more so to reduce the chance of spreading it if we are unknowingly infected. Along with distancing and hand washing, face coverings are now being recognised as an important part of stopping invisible spread in the community.
Below are some questions which we thought were specific to mask-wearing on-farm—our answers are based on Victorian DHHS FAQ pages. The DHHS site also has translated versions of common FAQs which may be useful for those of you with friend and colleagues where English is not the first language.
Do I need to wear a face covering in the ute?
If you’re alone (or only travelling with people from your household), you don’t need to wear a face covering. But have your mask with you and put it on before getting out or if you need to wind down the window to talk to someone.
Do I need to wear a mask if it’s just me and the cows?
As per the Victorian DHHS website, farmers do not need to wear a face covering if they are working on their own, or with other members of their household, on their own farm.
But workers or visitors to that farm – such as vets and other service providers – must wear a mask, and the farmer must in these situations wear a mask too. Everyone should keep 1.5 m apart where possible.
I’m doing a calving and it’s really hard and I’m feeling pretty puffed – what then?
The Victorian DHHS has a list of lawful exceptions for not wearing a face covering, which include “If you are doing strenuous exercise…where you are out of breath or puffing, you do not need to wear a face covering…” So it depends partly how hard you’re working! You still need to have a mask with you to wear before and afterwards.
The DHHS also say of people who may be feeling uncomfortable (e.g. out of breath/faint) while working “some people may require short breaks from wearing their face covering. When you do so, ensure you are not near other people…only a short break should be required“.
Can I take my face covering off if the person I am talking to can’t hear me?
People who are deaf or are hard of hearing may find lip reading essential for communication. You can remove your face covering if this is the case but you must keep 1.5 metres apart.
Face covering materials
There has been a lot of research into mask materials and how effective they are as barriers. They’ve examined T-shirts, tea towels, jeans, bandannas, pillow cases, coffee filters, paper towel, scarves, vacuum cleaner filters. Basically, the tighter the weave and the more layers a mask contains, the better protection they provide. Options for face coverings include:
- Wearing disposable masks
- Purchasing a fabric mask from a reputable website (better for the environment, but expect delays!)
- Bartering for a fabric mask made by friend or family
- Using a bandanna (NB: a fat quarter – 22 x 18 inches of quilting fabric – folded over into a triangle makes a quick, cheap, sew-free, elastic-free mask)
- Wearing a neck gator (a.k.a. snood, buff, neck warmer). Again, you can purchase one of these or make your own by recycling an old stretchy top (see instructions below)
- Wearing a face shield
Obviously, on dairy farms masks are likely to get splattered with mud or manure. Having several (cheap, quick and easy ones) on hand may be the best way to go.
If using cloth masks, put them straight into the washing machines when you get home. Remember to wash your hands with soapy water or use hand sanitiser before and after removing your face covering. This helps stop any potential transfer of virus from the face covering to your hands, face or other objects. Carry a paper bag or zip lock bag marked “CLEAN” to carry clean masks back to your ute. You can also have another bag mark “USED”.
First it was a run on toilet paper – now it’s…elastic?!
Yes that’s right, a shortage of elastic has made the news and it is hampering mask-making in the district. So to all you non-sewers: if you happen to have some elastic in your house, a donation to one of your sewing friends would be much appreciated. Timboon and District Healthcare Service is also looking for donations for their mask-making drive.
So best of luck everyone, let’s #maskup and avoid any fines – remember there’s so many other things we could spend $200 on!