The issue of wearing face coverings in public comes up frequently these days. A common sentiment is, “If I am not personally at high risk for COVID-19, why should I wear a mask?” I suspect this is why I see so many people in public places who are not covering their nose and mouth. The CDC has recommended “wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”
The reason for this is that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread even before symptoms appear, by such things as coughing, sneezing, or even speaking at close range. Cloth face coverings have been recommended due to their low cost and ready availability. By using cloth face coverings, it preserves surgical masks and N-95 masks for healthcare workers who may be involved in direct care of patients with COVID-19.
The importance of using face coverings in public is illustrated in the graphic seen here. If I wear my face covering to protect you from me, and you wear your face covering to protect me from you, then we can all dramatically decrease our risk of transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. This, in conjunction with social distancing and frequent hand washing or use of hand sanitizer, will be important in limiting the spread of COVID-19 as we return to our usual activities.
Michael Roberts, M.D., is a hospitalist at EAMC and is the hospital’s current Chief of Staff.
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