I wear a mask to protect you. Will you wear one to protect me?
Cover your face. This is the new guidance from the scientific community. In addition to social distancing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending all Americans wear a nonmedical face mask when out in public. Everyone should wear a face cover to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Let’s be clear: The purpose of a mask is not to protect you from the virus. We wear it to prevent others from catching the virus from us. Face coverings are about protecting others.
Wearing a mask is not about protecting yourself. A face covering is now an act of kindness toward others.
My mask protects you. Your mask protects me.
After finishing a long hospital shift, I stopped by the grocery store to get food for my family. I donned a face mask. No one else in the store had one. I brought a few from our office to give to strangers. Some happily accepted them. Others declined. One brushed me off, flippantly stating, “I don’t need that.”
I wanted to respond, “Wear it for me, not for you.” Wearing a mask is not about protecting yourself. A face covering is now an act of kindness toward others.
America must get this message: SARS-CoV-2 does not care what you think or what you believe. Many question the value of donning a mask if they feel fine. But we now know the virus is often spread before someone begins to feel sick. This is called viral shedding.
To protect those we love, and everyone else, we must cover our faces. According to recent data, asymptomatic carriers spread the virus. This is not surprising news as many viral illnesses follow this pattern. An asymptomatic carrier is someone who has the virus but does not know it. Through no fault of their own, a carrier is contagious and passes viral particles to others.
Until widespread testing is available, the safest course of action is for every American to live as though we are all asymptomatic carriers. The sad truth is any one of us may be shedding the virus and putting others at risk.
No human wants to make another person sick. If a small sacrifice of covering my face can possibly save a life, then hand me a mask.
When I am out of the house or at work, I will cover my face to protect others. The CDC says you should too.
Why is a mask important?
Face coverings are an additional weapon to prevent the spread. We must continue to stay at home and remain six feet apart when around others. The coronavirus is spread by respiratory droplets. Sneezing and coughing spread large droplets. New evidence indicates the virus can travel on the small droplets we expel when we speak, clear our throat, and breathe. Droplets leave our mouths and then enter the mouth, nose, or eyes of others.
Imagine being outside on a cold day and seeing your breath appear in a cloud. These clouds are the respiratory droplets present in our breath every day. The exact distance respiratory droplets can spread is debatable, but based on the current scientific information provided by Dr. Anthony Fauci from the CDC, we should separate by at least six feet and cover our face to prevent the spread.
Until widespread testing is available, the safest course of action is for every American to live as though we are all asymptomatic carriers.
What kind of mask will work?
The general public may use a simple cloth face covering. Masks should fit snugly against the side of the face, include multiple layers of fabric, allow for breathing without restriction and be secured with ties or ear loops.
A medical-grade mask is not necessary and should be reserved for medical professionals. Medical masks are in short supply. We want to save them for health care workers on the front line. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams released a YouTube video of how to make an acceptable mask from a T-shirt. Cloth masks may be machine washed and reused.
Not all Americans are listening
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, has been very clear in her recommendations: Stay at home, wash your hands, and wear a face covering.
In her most recent statements, Birx stated, “the U.S. can expect 200,000 deaths if everyone follows the guidelines to flatten the curve.” While it is sickening to fathom 200,000 deaths, the scariest word in her statement is “if.”
Epidemiological models used to predict the death rate are only as good as the available data, and the current models assume we are all following the rules. If everyone does not stay at home, wash their hands, and cover their faces, the death toll may be far higher. Every American should follow the recommendations. We must cover our faces to protect each other.
Covering your face is a small sacrifice to save another’s life.
Blog Author: Jeff Livingston
Blog Photo By: NurPhoto/Getty Images
The coronavirus outbreak is rapidly evolving. For updates, check the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and your local health department. If you’re feeling emotionally overwhelmed, reach out to the Crisis Text Line.