When I started writing this about a month ago, I realized that this virus was so new that our understanding of it would evolve. I expected to change my advice frequently based on new data. I try to read and stay abreast of updates, but things are moving swiftly. We have to remember that this virus infected it's first human host in mid November. And here we are 4 1/2 months later (is that all?) and we know amazing amounts of things about, but we still don’t understand it completely.
Sometimes, the theory and directives are vague and not so clear. Data and more information help to clarify. My big shift now is thinking about face masks. At first I thought only health care workers and infected patients needed them. I worried, as many experts do, including the CDC and WHO, that people who wore a mask for their own protection were risking letting down their guard with hand washing, physical distancing, trying not to touch their face, not always wearing them correctly. Worries were real that if everyone used them, health care workers would have none. Next, I thought people, who have been exposed but did not have symptoms, should wear one to protect from transmitting to others. These were reasonable concerns, when it was thought that the virus was in respiratory droplets and not aerosolized.
But the evidence is not so clear anymore about transmission. The risk of asymptomatic transmission is real. Now some evidence shows wearing a mask can protect an uninfected person from the virus. Compelling to my friends who love to sing, is this sad tale out of Mt. Vernon, Washington regarding choir practice. My friends are worried, want to do the right thing, and be safe. So now, my thinking has evolved that wearing a mask can be protective from infection, if done well, when shopping or going into stores, or talking with friends across an enclosed space. For people that have risk factors, this can be a gift of being out in the world with a little less fear. And I know there will be some fancy glamour, if I know my creative friends.
We are in this for the long haul and what we are doing is making a difference. Don’t be discouraged. A Seattle Times story today shows the progress being made, new and old treatments are in trials. People are donating their time and plasma for these efforts. People are following “physical distancing”- such a better description than “social distancing”. Yes, a few outliers, but generally people show they care by following the guidelines. And there are opportunities to help those that are suffering. I know of many ways here where I live and you can find ways wherever you live. We are all in this together.
Wash your hands.
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.