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Staff photo by Tim Barber/ Shoppers donning masks leave the Lifestyle Way Publix in East Brainerd near Hamilton Place Wednesday, Apr. 22, 2020.

This story was updated at 1:11 p.m. on Friday, April 24, 2020, with more information.

Despite appeals by government and health officials for persons to wear masks or facial shields when shopping among other persons, a majority of Chattanooga grocery shoppers visiting local supermarkets this week did not wear any facial covering, according to a sampling of shoppers at 18 Chattanooga grocery stores.

Among 737 shoppers surveyed Sunday through Wednesday at local Food City, Walmart, Publix, Whole Foods, Aldi, Target and Sav-A-Lot stores, less than 42% were wearing masks while shopping for groceries.

"To me as long as we're practicing social distancing, I don't need to wear a mask in public unless I was feeling sick or coughing," said Terence Bragg, who didn't wear a mask while shopping at the Hixson Publix store Wednesday. "I have a mask, but I'm not wearing it all the time."

Many Chattanooga shoppers are wearing masks to help limit the spread of the coronavirus or to help protect themselves from being exposed to the COVID-19 virus.

(READ MORE: How to stay safe at Chattanooga grocery stores during the coronavirus crisis)

"I know it may not do much to help me from getting it myself, but I wear a mask just in case I might be carrying the virus and I don't want to spread it to others," said Nicholas Martin, who wears a mask when he goes out grocery shopping. "I'm trying to do my part and I wish others did as well."

Michele Haranin, another shopper wearing a mask, said she is eager to protect herself and her 86-year-old father, especially after learning about the death from COVID-19 of a friend in Delaware.

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Staff photo by Tim Barber/ A grocery shopper ties a mask before entering the Lifestyle Way Publix in East Brainerd near Hamilton Place Wednesday, Apr. 22, 2020.

"Everyone has to make their own decision about what they should do, but I would feel terrible if I somehow gave this virus to someone else, not knowing that I might have the virus myself," she said. "So I think wearing a mask is important."

How the shopper survey was conducted

The Times Free Press observed a total of 737 grocery shoppers Sunday through Wednesday at 18 supermarkets throughout Chattanooga. The grocery stores included four Food City grocery stores, two Walmart superstores, two Walmart Neighborhood Centers, three Publix stores, an Aldi store, a Whole Foods store, a Target grocery store and a Sav-A-Lot store. The survey was not a scientifically random sample, but it did compile data from different times of each day across stores in Hixson, East Brainerd, Brainerd, North Chattanooga and Red Bank.

Inside Chattanooga's grocery stores, most, though not all, workers are wearing masks and gloves and workers in grocery stores are regularly wiping down counters and shopping cards after each customer.

Fresh Markets, the health food chain that operates one of its 176 stores in East Brainerd, is requiring all shoppers that enter its stores to have a face mask. The new requirement, which Fresh Market began Tuesday, "is in accordance with the CDC's latest recommendations," the company said in an announcement of the change.

The Centers for Disease Control and Hamilton County health officials are advising persons to wear facial masks while shopping or entering spaces where they might come near other people such as in grocery stores. Officials said this week that wearing masks will be even more critical as more businesses begin to reopen and conduct activities while still trying to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

"As we look to reopen, we're going to have to be even better about following public safety measures," Hamilton County Health Department Administrator Becky Barnes told the Times Free Press Tuesday. "Washing hands, staying six feet apart, wearing face coverings and following the CDC guidance is going to be more important than ever to make sure we don't have a worse outbreak."

Masks and facial coverings are recommended, but not required, in most of America to help limit the spread of the respiratory disease which has now claimed more than 21,000 American lives.

Seven states — Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island - require their residents to cover their faces when they visit essential businesses like grocery stores or when they use public transportation, according to CNN.

But Tennessee, Georgia and most states do not mandate either shoppers or workers in grocery stores to wear masks.

"Hamilton County citizens have done an outstanding job of following the directions they've been given and we hope that they will continue to do so," County Mayor Jim Coppinger said Wednesday. "Just like we're not going to open the gates an every business go back to normal, citizens are going to have to continue to practice social distancing, wear masks, and be cautious in order to keep the spread down."

 

How to improve the seal of your mask

Wearing a mask often makes our glasses fog. When you wear a mask, warm breath can escape through the top edges, along the tops of our cheeks. When the hot air lands on cooler lenses, it creates condensation on the surface and a foggy film. Cold weather makes the problem worse. 

What should you do to avoid fogging of glasses and improve the effectiveness of wearing a mask against the coronavirus? The New York Times offers these suggestions:

— MOLD YOUR MASK: Medical masks have built-in, bendable metal strips that you can mold to the bridge of your nose. You can add pipe cleaners to the top of a homemade fabric mask to get the same effect.

— TIGHTEN THE MASK: Adjust the ties or the ear loops so the mask fits snugly against your face. "If the air is going out the top, you don't have your mask on correctly," said Shan Soe-Lin, a lecturer at the Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. "Most of the breath should be going through the mask. If you feel the air going in or out around the mask, tighten the ties."

— TAPE YOUR MASK: Another option is to use white athletic or medical tape or even an adhesive bandage to seal the top of the mask around the bridge of your nose. "This is something a lot of medical students learn early on when they're using eye protection goggles," said Dr. Andrew Janowski, instructor of pediatric infectious diseases at Washington University School of Medicine St. Louis Children's Hospital. Don't use nonporous household tapes like packing tape or duct tape, which could irritate skin. Taping is a lot of work for a short trip outside, but might be warranted if you're caring for a sick person.

— PULL UP YOUR MASK: An easier tip for day-to-day mask wear is to use the weight of your glasses to block the air. Pull the mask up over the bridge of the nose as high as you can (make sure it's still under your chin too) and let your glasses rest on top of the mask. 

Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at staylor@timesfreepress.com or Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com.

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