Ask An Expert - Episode 2 with Ashley Ayres

We're back to answer more of your questions in our second 'Ask an Expert' video. Infection Prevention expert, Ashley Ayres, helped answer questions from businesses like yours.

In this video, Ashley answers:

  • Should we open our restrooms for public use? [0:19]
  • How often should I be changing and cleaning my mask? [1:40]
  • When can we take of our masks for good? And what needs to happen to get there? [3:48]

We've included the transcript below if you'd prefer to read her answers. And if you missed the previous episode, you can watch Episode 1 here.

Do you have any questions you’d like to get answered? We’ll pick a few questions from businesses like yours next time. Please email hello@qualaris.com with your questions.

Ashley Ayres answers your questions around COVID-19

AA: Hi everybody! I am Ashley Ayres. I am the Director of Infection Prevention for UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) Presbyterian Shadyside. I have been in infection prevention for 14 years, and I'm really excited to answer any questions that you have for businesses like yours to really help us prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Should we be concerned about opening our restrooms for public use?

AA: So it sounds like from some of the comments that people right now are just allowing their employees to use the restrooms, and we really want to get to the point where we can allow our patrons to also come in and be able to use the restroom.

I would say that is a wonderful idea. We are ready to open our public restrooms. They are good from a social distancing standpoint, especially in the places where there are stalls. Cleaning in between, daily, and at the end of the day is really helpful to make sure that you keep your bathroom sanitized.

I know there are a lot of questions about, well, if the toilet flushes, what does that mean for the virus? There has been wonderful data to show that this does not transmit through anything but the respiratory tract, not anything that you would use the bathroom for. So it's really wonderful to hear that we don't have to worry about toilets flushing. Keep in mind to do your daily, normal cleaning. That is always really important, especially during COVID-19. And if you could add some more times during the day, that's always wonderful.

Another option would be to think of places where you have multiple urinals. You may just want to separate and close out one urinal in the middle, so that allows for still that continuous social distancing, where you don't have a stall door. But happy to open them and I think the public would also really appreciate that.

How often should I be changing and cleaning my mask?

AA: This is a really cool question, and I think it's interesting to see as we've entered into 2020 and have gone through the mask cycle – seeing everybody coming up with new trendy masks and things that match your outfit and how they can be safe is always wonderful to see.

However, what's really important is to know why you're wearing it. The mask is there to protect everything you have from entering onto your face. This is a hospital-acquired mask [holding a surgical mask]. This is what I get at work. When I come in every day. Very different material. This is paper. It's shift use. It goes away at the end of the day.

And then this is my personal cloth mask [holding a cloth mask]. It's different, but still follows the CDC guidelines – which means that they're double layered and they're able to be cleaned. I can wear this all day besides maybe getting some makeup on it. What is the risk of when I should change it and when I shouldn't?

The couple of things are really important is when it gets sweaty, it doesn't necessarily take away the effectiveness of the mask. A fabric mask wet is still just as effective as a regular mask. But if you think about it, when you're sweaty on your clothes or feeling kind of sweaty, you're going to want to touch it.

What we're trying to avoid is you touching your face multiple times a day because your mask is sweaty. It's moving a little bit here. It's bothering you. Make sure when your mask does get to a point that it's sweaty, that you have an alternative with you to be able to just switch it out for the day and go ahead and wash it.

I personally have a set of three masks and I change my mask every night at the end of the day and I wash it before I reuse it again. It's really helpful to keep a couple extra ones. And at the end of the day, make sure that you get rid of them.

I also have two masks specifically for when I go to the gym. They are a little bit of a different fabric, but I wear those once to the gym, bring them home, and wash them before I wear them again. So I think it's important to not use it over multiple days, unless you necessarily have to. Because you're going to touch it and touch things and have the potential to contaminate it. As soon as you can throw your mask in the washer, throw it in.

When can we take our masks off for good and what needs to happen to get there?

AA: That's the million dollar question.

And here's my million dollar answer - I don't know. What I do know is there doesn't look to be an end in sight. We are still seeing the virus here. We are actually starting to see a little bit of an increase again in our local areas.

We really need to continue to be very impactful on wearing a mask. Without a vaccine, this is our number one source of protection. When a vaccine arrives, we may still have to wear a mask as well and see how that vaccine goes until we learn more.

So the answer is very unknown, but the answer for me is really strong - to continue to wear a mask until you're told not to. Masks are really, really important to protect you and others from COVID-19.

Let's thank Ashley for her time and insights!

AA: I hope these answers really helped give some clarity on any of your questions. As things evolve, as we know they will with COVID-19, please continue to ask us anything you need. We're here and happy to help with any questions you have. Just go ahead and respond to this message, or you can email us at hello@qualaris.com.

Thank you for taking the time to listen to me and remember to wash your hands and wear your mask.

This transcript has been lightly edited to make it more readable.