November 11, 2020

Masking up for safety

The news today of massive increase in infections in the US: 145,000 in one day! Yikes. The numbers are rising in many states and governors and local officials are taking steps to try to flatten the curve. Hospital cases are rising, threatening to overwhelm the hospitals. Governors that resisted before are now coming out for masking to try to slow things down. A vaccine will not save us, at least any time soon, and many lives are at risk now.

Masks have more and more evidence that they are safe and effective. The CDC came out with its strongest statement yet regarding masks’ effectiveness. More evidence shows masks not only prevent transmission if someone has it, but can also help prevent the wearer from getting infected, by decreasing the inoculation. Now the data regarding effectiveness of masks is even more compelling.

Some people complain that the CDC and other public health officials have “changed their minds”, which they imply is a failure or weakness. I call it learning. SARS-CoV-2, the virus, is just reaching its first birthday. The disease it causes, COVID-19, is different than any disease we have seen before. Unpredictable, mild or no symptoms in many, but deadly and damaging in others, and damaging in ways we have not experienced before. We have learned how to support people through the illness so the death rate is lower, but, still, we have no cure and no sure prevention, and many more people are dying than the flu.

But we do have masks and social distancing. They work and they are safe.Many people complain they aren’t getting enough oxygen or they can’t use a mask while exercising. Data shows a different story. Studies show that oxygen intake, even in older people, is actually not affected by masks. Other studies show that masks don’t effect breathing while exercising. Reassurance and showing people this data may help some people wear masks.

Masking, along with social distancing and ventilation, can help us stay safe while socializing and working. But convincing people to wear masks is daunting and not easy, since it has become so politicized. Approaching it like the approach taken decades ago when seat belts were first being encouraged is an interesting idea. The personal freedom arguments are cannily the same. Advertising can help. We need a “Buckle Up for Safety, Buckle Up” jingle for masking up.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, and mask up for safety, mask up.

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. masks oxygen droplets exercise and masks