by Christine Hartford
It is unclear when we will be on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is unclear when life will go back to what we all regard as normal or even close to normal. Likely, it will be many months. If you are like me, you have found yourself wondering what you can do to help. What can I do to make a difference?
The answer is simple, and it’s something nearly every single one of us can do to help quell the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Wear. A. Mask.
Every day, we learn more about SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. We know so much more now than we knew back in March. Treatments are being studied. A vaccine is in development. When we have these tools at our disposal, we will be much better equipped to combat the virus. But until then, we have some very simple measures that can go a long way to help our society slow the spread.
In the spring, we spoke of “flattening the curve,” but we can’t just say that anymore. A few weeks ago, yes, that was the goal. But now the curve is going up again across our country, and if we don’t do something soon, some projections warn that the curve will go off the charts.
Researchers now believe that 100,000 cases a day are possible if we don’t quickly act to turn things around. Some states are already in crisis. Again, the one thing nearly all of us can do to help stem the upward curve is to wear masks.
We know that the primary way SARS-CoV-2 spreads is through respiratory droplets. Wearing a mask – a cloth face covering over the nose and mouth – has been shown to be very effective in preventing transmission of the virus via droplets.
The effectiveness of cloth face coverings cannot be disputed. Are they convenient? Maybe not. Are they uncomfortable? Maybe for some they are, although in most situations, they should not be. Even if they are, is not a little bit of discomfort worth it? Especially for those of us who are healthy enough to be out and about, isn’t slowing the spread important enough to us to bear it?
This is the time for each of us to be ok with going the extra step, to be ok with a little discomfort. To sacrifice just a little.
Think about the healthcare workers on the front lines, in the emergency rooms, the ICUs and the inpatient units, taking care of those who have been infected with this virus. Think about what each and every one of them is doing to help our society get through this pandemic. Isn’t it the least that each and every one of the rest of us can do to put a cloth over our nose and mouth to help decrease the spread and to help decrease the number of patients who end up in our hospitals?
Like many, I try to learn as much as I possibly can about COVID-19. I read medical journal articles. I read newspaper articles. And yes, I read social media. Social media is interesting. It is a platform that can be helpful and provide useful information, but it is also one that can lead to the spread of dangerously detrimental misinformation. The topic of masks is no exception.
I have seen claims that masks cause hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation. Not true. Just think about the surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare workers who wear masks for hours and hours in a row each day with no problems whatsoever.
I have read claims that masks lead to breathing difficulties and shortness of breath. They should not. The simple cloth face coverings that the public is being asked to wear should not cause any respiratory difficulties whatsoever. Anyone who experiences such difficulties should be evaluated by their physician.
There are some individuals who have true contraindications to wearing a face covering. Those include individuals with severe underlying respiratory problems, children under the age of two, and individuals who are unable to remove the mask should they experience distress. However, in the big scheme of things, these individuals are few in number. The rest of us have no excuse. Inconvenience is no excuse. Mild discomfort is no excuse to not wear a mask.
I am truly baffled by some of what I have seen on social media. There are countless posts from individuals that react to being told to wear a mask like a toddler throwing a tantrum when they are told to do something they don’t want to do. I don’t understand it. Have they not seen the curves? Have they not heard the number of cases and the number of deaths? Have they not been worried about someone they love being affected by this virus?
I implore each and every one us of us to do our part and wear a mask. Not only that, encourage those around you to wear a mask. Set a good example. Model good behavior for your children, neighbors, co-workers, and students.
Wear a mask to keep those around you free of COVID-19. Wear a mask to protect those you love. Wear a mask to protect the stranger next to you in the grocery store. Wear a mask to help that curve turn downward again. Wear a mask to help us get to the other side of this pandemic. Wear a mask to help us get back to normal as soon as we can.
Please, wear a mask.
Christine Hartford, M.D., is a board-certified pediatrician and assistant professor of clinical medicine at New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in op-eds are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of AY About You or About You Media Group. This article was originally published on our sister publication’s website, Arkansas Money & Politics.