June 23, 2020

Tools are useful

Today I listened to part of Governor Inslee’s press conference announcing that masks need to be worn in public statewide starting Friday. I was impressed with his knowledge and understanding of the complexities of the decision. He understands it is not a popular decision in many parts of the state. He decided to mandate masks partly due to the big increase in numbers of infections and community spread in Yakima County and because Washington state’s numbers are starting to rise again. He used the phrase R0 (R naught-which is how many others one case infects) like a true public health nerd. He recognizes that we need the number to be below 1 to keep our numbers low.

He made a point that made sense to me and may be useful in talking with people about mask wearing. The first tool we used to slow down the pandemic and flatten the curve (remember that phrase-it seems so long ago now) was to have people shelter in place and stay home, shutting down businesses and the economy. It worked beautifully as far as the pandemic went, but sucked for the economy. Now we are trying to re-open and get people out again. The tool that seems to help best with that is mask wearing. Mask wearing works to lower the R0 and decrease spread. It allows us to get out without exposing others. There is more data now that show that.

We are seeing big increases in infections and hospitalizations in places like Texas and Florida which opened up their economies earlier, but without adding the tool of mask wearing. Places where people are wearing masks are doing better with less surging. Dr. Fauci testified about that in Congress today and he has concerns that the pandemic is not through the first wave. His advice was simple: don’t go into crowds and wear a mask if you do.

Governor Inslee hopes that people will comply and wear masks to prevent shutting the economy down again and decrease the number of deaths. He appealed to the goodness of our citizens to care for their fellow citizens by complying. If we can use all the tools available, we can help prevent infections and deaths, as well as help the economy. This makes sense to me.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six.

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.