Don’t pick up discarded face masks – they are a health hazard, says York expert

Litter-pickers are being urged not to pick up discarded face masks because they pose an infection risk.

Public health boss Sharon Stoltz said it is “outrageous” that some residents and visitors drop used face masks.

And people should not try to remove them – but instead contact the council so that they can be safely removed.

You can report dropped masks on public property to the cleaning teams here.

Cllr Jonny Crawshaw warned that many residents have asked for advice about collecting and binning face masks.

Ms Stoltz said: “We shouldn’t have discarded face masks in the city – I find it outrageous, quite frankly, that people would just drop their masks. They are a source of infection.

“I would advise against members of the public picking up face masks.

“They need to be handled carefully in accordance with infection prevention controls. I would advise members of the public to report discarded face masks to the council’s Covid-19 helpline.

“But my plea to residents and visitors to the city would be don’t drop them in the first place.”

More than 700 binned

Two of York’s Covid marshals

It was revealed that York’s Covid marshals have already collected 735 discarded face masks and handed out 131 masks to people. They have also spoken to 580 groups of people and 622 businesses.

Ms Stoltz said: “The Covid marshals are doing a great deal of very valuable work.”

The plea came as Ms Stoltz shared concerns about the number of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 but cannot be reached by the test and trace team.

She said the team has not been able to contact 256 people who tested positive for the virus: “A significant number of people that have tested positive, so they should be self-isolating, but we’re having difficulties in contacting those individuals either by phone or by a home visit.

“We’re talking of 256 individuals that we haven’t been able to either speak to or visit – that’s a cumulative number.

“Obviously that is a concern because if people have tested positive and they’re not socially isolating and then that can spread the virus across York.”

The public health team will carry out more follow up visits in a bid to reach people who test positive.