To Mask or Not to Mask

There are conflicting recommendations about the benefits and issues with the public wearing masks in response to Coronavirus. In the beginning, we were informed that the masks were not helpful. Then the public was told only health care workers needed masks. (Then encouraged everyone to donate any masks they have to healthcare workers) The public was discouraged from wearing masks because most would touch their face more and would increase the likelihood of contaminating themselves. Then it was determined that those infected while quarantining should wear a mask to minimize exposure to those in the same household. Then it was determined that masks could help mitigate the spread by limiting respiratory droplets from people being spewed in the air. 

Back in January the World Health Organization issued guidance on community usage and discouraged mask usage as wearing medical masks when not indicated may cause unnecessary cost, procurement burden and create a false sense of security that can lead to neglecting other essential measures such as hand hygiene practices. Furthermore, using a mask incorrectly may hamper its effectiveness to reduce the risk of transmission. “The W.H.O also stated, “a medical mask is not required, as no evidence is available on its usefulness to protect non-sick persons. However, masks might be worn in some countries according to local cultural habits. If masks are used, best practices should be followed on how to wear, remove, and dispose of them and on hand hygiene action after removal (see below advice regarding appropriate mask management).” Both of these statements were published in Advice on the use of masks the community, during home care and in health care settings in the context of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak Interim guidance 29 January 2020 released by the W.H.O. The CDC has recommended that the public wear face coverings in public places and areas considered hot zones where social distancing is not easy to maintain because people who do not know they are infected may pass on the virus. This was suggested by the CDC to slow the spread of the virus. 

Governors and Mayors have decided to mandate wearing a mask because they have determined it may save lives. We flattened the curve not to save lives but to prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed. (flattening the curve, a side effect may have been some lives being spared from the coronavirus but many other lives were sacrificed) Now we are being told we have to wear a mask because a larger percentage of people are asymptotic. In other words, more people have the virus than thought and show no symptoms, which increases the ease with which the virus spreads. 

Organizations asserting a certain stance without any clear medical evidence or conflicting medical opinions is making it less likely that people will comply with the proposed solutions. Americans understand that everyone is still learning about coronavirus, but that is not the issue. The issue is that the proposed and mandated expectations are not being supported with convincing proof. Just mandating a person to comply without a convincing and real reason to comply will not produce the desired result. The only thing such a mandate will do is create mistrust and less compliance with any additional desired behavior modifications. It is time that politicians and the medical society think clearly and slowly about the benefits of mandates before implementing them. It is not surprising that there are different conclusions about the merits of wearing masks. Another factor with mask mandates is the constitutionality of such a mandate but that is a discussion for another blog.

Enjoy what you read? Follow me on FB at Maria Ecrivain and on Twitter @M.E. Speaks1. Stay informed and keep it real! -M.E.


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