Iowa City Transit asks bus riders to wear cloth masks

City of Iowa City

Iowa City Transit is asking riders to wear to cloth masks while on city buses.

“Wearing a cloth mask while riding transit will help keep both the drivers and riders safe, and limit the spread of COVID-19. City bus drivers also have access to, and wear, masks,” Iowa City Transit said in a written statement on Friday.

On April 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a statement recommending “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.” The recommendation was based on new studies that showed “a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms (‘asymptomatic’) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (‘pre-symptomatic’) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms.”

The CDC emphasized that it is recommending cloth masks, not surgical mask or N-95 respirators.

“Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance,” the agency said.

The cloth masks do not prevent a person from becoming infected with the virus, but can greatly reduce the amount of potentially infected droplets a person expels just by breathing or talking.

“This mask is not to protect me,” Dr. Tony Myers of Mercy Medical Center said during an April 6 press conference where Linn County health officials recommended wearing a cloth mask in public. Myers was wearing a mask as he spoke. “It’s to protect the other people in this room. Even talking loudly can cause spread of this virus. … Please, please put on a mask to protect all of us.”

During a press conference on April 7, Johnson County Public Health Director Dave Koch noted the CDC recommendation about cloth masks, but added, “physically distancing yourself six feet away from others when you must be in public and handwashing are still the most important things you can do to slow the spread of the virus.”

The CDC has posted a short video showing how to make a cloth mask out of common household items such as rubber bands, scarfs, bandannas or T-shirts.