Editor’s note: This guest column is in response to a Letter to the Editor that ran in the April 22 edition titled, “Mask Madness.”
Submitted by Richard Bell
San Juan Island
A letter to the editor, with content brimming in tones of knowledge and authority, postulated that widespread public mask use offers no benefit except in offering some warm fuzzy placebo blanket of security for those wearing them while simultaneously setting those not wearing them up for public ridicule and ostracism.
This line of thinking is not only ill-informed but potentially reckless and dangerous.
In paraphrasing the World Health Organization’s policy on masking in public, the author is incorrect in his summation of their policy. I might encourage readers to do their own research of both CDC and WHO statements on this matter.
I have worked on the frontlines and in direct contact with dozens of COVID-19 patients. I have been enmeshed into the specifics of the illness, and its methodology of transmission for months. Though we still have much to learn, and protocols are changing constantly in response to new information, there are indeed many things we do know about the community spread of this virus.
This virus is primarily spread through droplets, which can be ejected through coughing, sneezing and even speaking. Some of these droplets can remain airborne for a period of time — depending on various factors. Most of the larger droplets fall and settle on surfaces where they may remain viable (alive and potentially infectious) for days- depending on conditions. Often, those surfaces might be touched and find their way into one’s body when touching the face. Additionally, there is also the element of droplet/airborne transmission, and direct inhalation of the virus which is what the 6-foot rule is based on!
Inhalation of the virus is a known risk.
Those of us working with COVID-19 patients wear masks for OUR protection in avoiding inhaling airborne droplets- which likely contain the virus. There are different types of masks we employ based on our calculation of the airborne vs droplet environment we are working with.
There are many cases of this virus being active and spread in people that are not yet sick. This is referred to as pre-symptomatic transmission. The policy advising the public to wear masks, in public places is in consideration of a possibility that any person could potentially be infectious, perhaps not even knowing it, and unwittingly dispersing it into public spaces.
This is why the widespread wearing of masks in public is encouraged.
There is no political agenda here. It’s just some basic science and public health concern and policy.