As we have discussed already on this blog, many experts agree that one of the main ways the virus is spread is through droplets – when a person coughs or sneezes, or even speaks sometimes, liquid from that person’s mouth will land on surfaces or other people in the form of droplets. If this person is carrying the disease, the person that comes in contact with those droplets will also become infected. This is the main theory as to how the virus is so effective at spreading. The main argument for wearing a mask is that the mask will capture these droplets and prevent them from spreading the virus. One of the main arguments however against wearing the mask is, “What about people who are healthy and not exhibiting symptoms? Why should they have to wear a mask?” And what we have discovered that nearly a third to one half of the transmissions that have occurred, have come from people who are a-symptomatic or not showing symptoms yet.
The World Health Organization concluded in early June of this year that masks help protect the general public. Not necessarily the same masks that are used by our front-line workers, but simple masks – surgical or homemade masks. However, before their announcement in June, as we noted in a previous post of this blog, the WHO believed masks were not necessary and even gave people a false sense of security. So why did they change their tune?
Well it isn’t as simple as them flipping a switch and changing their minds all of the sudden. Their former stance was that masks could encourage people to be less careful with the more crucial parts of staying safe and practicing good hygiene such as avoiding touching your face, washing your hands often, disposing of the mask properly, and not re-using single use masks. These concerns still exist, however the evidence that we need to be wearing masks, is too overwhelming now for the WHO to not explicitly suggest wearing them.
Now the question becomes, why aren’t some people wearing masks? If global leaders and health experts are now suggesting wearing masks, why wouldn’t you wear a mask? It’s become a controversial and political subject now. Brazil’s President Jair Bolsanaro mocked people that have worn masks, and the United States President Trump downplayed the importance of masks and only just now appeared publicly wearing a mask for the first-time last week. These two leaders are just a few examples of what has made for a puzzling few months for health experts, who are adamant that the general public need to wear masks.
If we are to wear masks though, we need to know which kind of mask we need to be wearing, and which ones we need to leave for the front-line workers and medical professionals. The WHO suggests that most people use non-medical masks as to not create any kind of shortage for those treating patients. Sewn masks made of cotton can be washed and reused and are effective at catching the previously mentioned droplets. They have become widely available now by many retailers and come in many different styles. Using these instead of surgical masks will help keep the supply available for medical professionals.
So, should we be wearing masks? While it is has become a controversial topic, almost every health organization and medical expert will suggest wearing a mask. Leave the N95 and Respirators for the professionals, and pick up a reusable one for a few dollars, or even consider what many experts say is the safest option – a single use 3-layer mask changed every 4 hours. We all have a responsibility to keep our friends and neighbors from catching anything we might be carrying. For more info and posts related to Covid-19 be sure to check back with the ABN blog Regularly.