OTTUMWA — Ottumwa Regional Health Center is encouraging community members to wear either face masks or cloth coverings in public areas where social distancing is not easily achieved.

Recent studies have shown that universal masking can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, especially in individuals who may be asymptomatic. Coverings should be worn over the nose and mouth and held securely with loops or ties.

The hospital’s position is consistent with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The hospital already has universal masking protocols within its facilities, and individuals are required to wear a mask at all times.

“Until there is a vaccine, wearing a mask in public, practicing social distancing and proper hand hygiene are our best lines of defense in reducing the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” said Paula Simplot, director of quality at the hospital. “By looking our for each other, we’ll get through this together and continue making our community healthier.

“One of the easiest and most effective ways we can look out for each other is to wear a face mask in public spaces right now.”

On Friday, Iowa reported its highest number of positive cases over a 24-hour period with 879.

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