Submitted by Susie Nichols, OTR/L
I would like to correct the misinformation provided by the opinion in [Tim Parise’s Letter to the Editor] Mask Madness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation is as follows: “It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus. CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.” Dr. Mike Ryan of the World Health Organization stated: “We can certainly see circumstances on which the use of masks, both home-made and cloth masks, at the community level may help with an overall comprehensive response to this disease.” What has not changed is the advice that surgical masks ought to be reserved as far as possible for health care workers exposed to COVID-19 patients and others in care settings.
Some people may be unwilling to wear a mask to protect their neighbors, but this isn’t about their personal comfort level, it is about stopping the spread so fewer people become ill with the risk of death. This is particularly important in a community with a large older population. While wearing a mask is not necessary at your home or on the street, scientists who discourage constant mask usage still recommend mask usage in certain circumstances. Dr. Zhai from the University of Colorado stated in the Journal Building and Environment, “For a confined space with higher population density and less ventilation, facial masks are a lifesaver. Cases demonstrate that people in an elevator may get infected by an infected person within a few seconds without any direct contact. Grocery stores are another good example. Facial masks can effectively prevent person-to-person infection through droplet transmission. With the increasing number of no-symptom patients, wearing a facial mask becomes more crucial, even under the current recommendations of the US CDC, as everyone could be a potential unknown virus source.”
Hong Kong has been one of the most successful countries (Special Administrative Region of China) at minimizing COVID spread despite a population of 7 million and being extraordinarily densely populated. They wear masks and they test. Wearing a cloth mask keeps unsuspecting silent carriers from spewing 50% of their droplets (based on materials testing) thus reducing the risk of airborne transmission. Add that to distancing and our safety is greatly improved.
Wearing a mask doesn’t protect the wearer, it protects the community. Our grocery staff deserves your demonstrating that you care about their safety by both distancing 6 feet and wearing your mask. Please leave the N95 and surgical masks for Health Care providers.