To mask or not to mask?

Recently, there have re-emerged some questions about wearing masks. This is quite understandable, as, in March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and the surgeon general were recommending against masks in public. Then, about a month later, the CDC reversed their recommendations and published that cloth masks were beneficial to wear, especially in public buildings and businesses.

Why the change? Early on, the CDC was concerned, with good reason, that private citizens were buying up all the N-95 and medical masks and that overreaction would not leave supplies for frontline medical personnel.

So, what does the research and data say about wearing masks? I am glad you asked. Long before the world had even heard about COVID-19, research had been conducted and the evidence compiled, that, beyond a doubt, cloth masks helped prevent spread of respiratory illnesses.

Cochran’s review, a respected medical resource that compiles the results of multiple studies on a topic, from 2011 studied the effectiveness of physical interventions, i.e. face masks, to interrupt the spread of respiratory viruses. Read it atbit.ly/2TUg1uf. The evidence was clear that face masks, even independent of additional interventions such as social distancing and proper hygiene, had an impact on the spread of respiratory viruses.

Obviously, practicing all three had the best outcome for preventing the spread of the virus. That argument that face masks are “dirty” and could cause more spread of the virus just does not have scientific validity. If anything, wearing a mask prevents, and reminds, the wearers not to touch their faces and eyes because this presents a barrier to doing so.

Yes, it is much better to practice careful handling of your cloth mask and wash it after being around multiple persons in a public setting. But, even if you are a little careless with the pesky thing, the benefit clearly outweighs the risk.

For a visual synopsis of how, where, why to wear and how to care for your mask, check out Anna Laird’s pamphlet that was made for the children of Cordova — but it’s actually the best summary I have seen for anyone. It’s worth a click. Anna’s pamphlet for Cordova kids is here: tinyurl.com/ycddfywa. We will also have some paper copies of this at the clinic if anyone wishes to have a hard copy.

There is more evidence mounting that if you are outside in open air or in our amazing wilderness, wearing a mask is not as essential if you are, in fact, practicing social distancing. It is still best practice to limit your exposure to multiple households, and limit your “party” to six or fewer, even in the outdoors.

So, in closing, I gently ask you to believe the science, and not the lone YouTube video that states that masks are unhealthy and that the government is overstepping its authority and infringing on your rights by urging you to wear a cloth face mask. The fact is, the government is infringing on your behavior, but it is allowed to do so when it protects you and the rights of others: such as, laws that require us to wear seatbelts, or motorcycle helmets or to notdrive while intoxicated.

It is also the right thing to do as we move to the next phase and reopen the country. So, fasten up and cover up, Cordova. And do it for the health of it.