Mask-wearing during the coronavirus pandemic has become a divisive topic in our community and throughout the nation, resulting from myths that have drawn some community members away from scientifically directed practices. Some believe that wearing a mask is meaningless or even unsafe, but this simple action, as well as social distancing, does save lives.
What does wearing a mask do?
The goal is to prevent the droplets produced from talking, coughing, sneezing, etc., from leaving one person and infecting another, something mask wearing disrupts significantly. Even a scarf or folded bandana is better than nothing – but they should fit snuggly and include multiple layers of fabric. Wearing a mask is about protecting your neighbors, friends, relatives, co-workers, and other members of your community, especially those at high-risk. If we are in public and cannot maintain six feet of social distance between ourselves and others, then it is important that we wear a mask to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Is wearing a mask unsafe?
Some individuals have concerns that masks adversely affect our breathing or restricts air intake, but it has been studied and proven by credible sources that masks will not decrease your oxygen levels -- that is science we can absolutely trust. Our operating room teams have long been wearing masks for eight to 10 hours a day as part of their uniform, with no adverse effects.
Why weren’t masks recommended earlier on in the pandemic?
Others point out that masks were not recommended early in the COVID-19 crisis, but at that time it was a new coronavirus and there was still much to learn. Mask usage was discounted initially because the spread of COVID-19 was not well defined and there was concern about a PPE shortage. It wasn’t necessarily clear at that time that mask usage in the community would interrupt disease transmission as much as it does. Because understanding how the disease is spread has evolved, it’s now very clear that mask-wearing works.
How else can I stop the spread?
In addition to wearing a mask, the data shows that even a distance of three feet significantly decreases the spread of the coronavirus from one person to another. At six feet the risk decreases even further, at nine feet even further than that, and so on, particularly in an indoor setting.
Is the coronavirus really that serious?
Another argument we have heard against mask-wearing is that only a small percentage of those who get COVID-19 will die. But it’s important to note that we do not yet understand the long-term implications of this virus. Even those who recover could have effects down the road. And, if we can save even a small percentage of lives, isn’t that reason enough?
Do I still need to take precautions at this stage in the pandemic?
We should wear masks at the grocery store, the doctor’s office, at work with others, and in any other situation where a safe distance of more than six feet between us and those not in our immediate families can’t be maintained. If you find yourself in a situation where you aren’t sure if you need a mask, it’s better to wear one. For more information about how we are keeping you safe at The Christ Hospital, check out our COVID-19 patient resources and updates.