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Drew: To Mask or Not to Mask?

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By Samuetta Hill Drew

As the Coronavirus COVID – 19 continues to rapidly spread throughout parts of our country at increasingly higher rates this summer and in increasingly wider age populations, many government officials have implemented a mandatory face covering/mask order for citizens in open public spaces.

Most of the government-initiated health orders about mandatory face coverings/masks are somewhat similar and rooted in the most recent medical and scientific research about the prevention of the virus COVID-19. Even though health officials are providing evidence that wearing a face covering/ mask is vital in preventing and controlling the spread of the virus, many citizens (for whatever reason) remain unphased and refuse to wear any type of face covering/mask when out in public spaces.

The nature of this topic is extremely serious. Due to its seriousness a series will be devoted to this topic. The range of the articles will include scientific and medical research behind the face coverings/masks requirements, what health safety, and preventive measures they provide, what types are considered the best to wear during this pandemic and the proper maintenance. For accuracy about this subject, the information contained in this week’s article will come directly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and/or medical professionals from the University of California San Francisco. Referencing these resources will help ensure that the data shared is research based and not based upon my understanding since I am not a scientist nor a medical professional.

Some believe the personal debate whether to wear or not to wear a mask comes from the CDC and The World Health Organization (WHO) earlier belief which has now completely reversed. This reversal now strongly favors the public wearing face covering/mask.

“Their earlier beliefs were partially based on what was thought to be low disease prevalence” says infectious disease specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, MD. He further states “this was based at the beginning on not having enough testing.”

U.S. culture is also a factor influencing the personal debate for some wearing a mask. Americans unlike many Asians are unaccustomed to wearing face coverings/masks in public. Therefore, many have opted to ignore the local governmental orders based on recommendations from the CDC and WHO. Unfortunately, the personal debate about face covering/mask has shifted from a health question into a political position.

So, what evidence does the CDC and WHO now have that wearing a face covering/mask is effective in preventing COVID-19?

There are several new findings supporting this decision. One category of evidence comes from laboratory studies of respiratory droplets generated when saying a simple phrase (note more about this topic will be explored further in next week’s article). The studies show that nearly all these droplets were blocked when the mouth was covered by a damp washcloth (do not dampen your mask).

Another study of people who had influenza or the common cold found that wearing a surgical mask significantly reduced the amount of these respiratory viruses emitted in droplets and aerosols. Another recent study showed that states and/or cities where mandated face covering/masks were in place, showed a slowdown in daily COVID-19 growth rate which became more apparent over time. It slowed from a 0.2 percent to 0.9 percent in a matter of weeks.

There are several additional studies supporting face coverings/masks, but one which appeared compelling looked at coronavirus deaths across 198 countries. The study found those with cultural norms or government policies favoring mask-wearing had lower death rates.

So, to Keep an Eye on Safety for you and your love ones let the recent research findings help answer the personal question to wear or not to wear a face covering/mask. If one abides by medical and scientific research findings wearing a mask ends the personal debate.

It is important to remember if you live inside of Jefferson County or visit public spaces in Jefferson County face covering/masks are mandated.