Actions

Should you wear a mask? US health officials re-examine guidance amid coronavirus crisis

Posted at 10:23 AM, Apr 02, 2020

Official guidelines regarding wearing masks to reduce the spread of the coronavirus may be shifting. As of now, the CDC recommends that if you’re healthy, you should not wear a mask unless you are caring for someone who has the virus.

So why are these guidelines under active discussion? And should we all be wearing masks?

When you look at other countries, especially Asian countries, mask-wearing is very common during respiratory outbreaks. In fact, Hong Kong and Taiwan acted quickly with both mask-wearing and social distancing and their numbers are under much greater control.

Also, there are a few countries that have made mask-wearing mandatory, like Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. But that’s not likely why the CDC is looking closely at their guidelines.

There’s actually new data that’s shown high rates of transmission from folks who are infected with the coronavirus but are asymptomatic – so they don’t show symptoms. Which means they could be spreading the virus, unknowingly. And masks may help with this.

A study in 2013 found that surgical masks could help reduce exposure to the flu virus, reducing the amount of the virus that was sprayed into the air by threefold.

But on the flip side, another study found that medical students touched their faces on average 23 times while wearing masks. And that’s very concerning to me.

If your hands have picked up the virus, then you could easily spread it to your face if you’re adjusting the mask. It’s very possible to transmit viruses through the eyes, by rubbing them with your fingers.

In my opinion, it’s okay for people to wear masks.

Let me be frank, they may not protect you from getting the virus, because tiny viral particles can penetrate masks. But they can help stop you from spreading the virus because when you speak, droplets can fly out of your mouth. Wearing a face mask can help prevent them from escaping and contaminating others close by.

Now, that’s not saying if you’re sick you can leave home. Please stay home if you’re ill and self-isolate from family members.

Also, if you decide to wear a mask, I will stress that you practice wearing it. Make sure it’s secure and fits properly before heading out the door. That will help you keep your hands off the mask and hopefully germs off your face.

Now, notice I mentioned masks, not N95 masks. Please leave those for medical staff. We are in short supply and we need our health care workers who are treating the sick to stay healthy. They must be our top priority so that they can continue to do their job.