Should You Be Wearing a Mask?

Because of the novel nature of COVID-19, information about the virus is coming out in stages as the scientists learn more about it. When we were first discussing staying safe and protecting ourselves, the CDC told us not to use face masks because they wouldn’t slow the spread. However, more research has shown that there is good reason to wear masks when we are out and about.

That can be hard to hear after we have planned ahead how we are going to react. We want to protect ourselves as much as possible, and learning information that derails the plans we have made can be distressing. And, medical-grade masks are still not advised. They are in short supply and are needed in hospitals. From the beginning, the CDC said that a face mask couldn’t protect you from catching COVID-19. Now, they are talking about how they can help you protect others.

People can be contagious without realizing it. You can pass on the virus before you know you’re ill, and some people don’t have symptoms at all. The CDC believes that as many as 25 percent of people with the virus are unaware that they are infected. “This helps explain how rapidly this virus continues to spread across the country,” the CDC director, Dr. Robert Redfield, in an interview. As they are reevaluating information, their guidelines are shifting.

According to the CDC, any cloth covering on your face can limit the spread of COVID-19. The recommendation doesn’t stand in for social distancing. You should still stay more than six feet away from others. But, by covering your mouth, and the people around you doing the same, everyone involved is protected from each other. If someone sneezes on you while you’re wearing a mask, it does offer some protection, but do not touch the mask with your hands. If you touch the mask, the virus can be transferred to your hands. The World Health Organization released a video on how to wear a mask. It might sound silly because we all think we know how to wear a mask. However, there is a specific way it should be worn and removed.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams took to YouTube to give people lessons on how to make covers from things you have at home. A scarf or bandana can be used, and he shows how to turn an old t-shirt into a mouth cover with elastic bands. There are many YouTube videos on how to sew nicely made face masks. It can be a fun craft if you are bored inside. The New York Times also made a written step-by-step guide if you would prefer that to a video. Or, if you want to make a version of the t-shirt mask without elastic bands, another guide can teach you to make one using just the shirt

High-fashion brands have been releasing face masks that cost up to $60. That is excessive, but if you don’t feel like sewing a face cover yourself, or are interested in one with a specific pattern, many are available on Etsy. When more stringent regulations are lifted, people in many areas may still be told to follow social distancing rules. We may be wearing face covers for quite some time. Having a style you like and that’s comfortable can make the recommendation easier to follow.   
Some of us may feel uncomfortable wearing a mask. It might make you worried that people will see you and assume that you are ill. But, for the sake of our communities, it’s the responsible thing to do. “In many cultures around the world, wearing a mask is just part of the culture — it is a socially accepted act of kindness,” said Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. “Wearing a mask should not scare people. It is a good thing. It is a considerate thing. It is a courageous thing.”

Masks do have another benefit, beyond just protecting us. They can make us feel more empowered. There can be a sense of helplessness when it comes to pandemics. We feel like there is little we can do. However, wearing a mask is an excellent way to protect yourself and others. Along with washing your hands, keeping your distance and not touching your face, a face cover can help you stop the spread of the virus. A mask can make you feel empowered and safer when you have to leave the house to go to the store or have to make another necessary trip outside your home. “It feels like you’re behind a shield,” Dr. Michael Klompas, an infectious disease physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “And I think that in itself can be reassuring.”
April 08, 2020
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