To mask or not to mask, that is the question.
And the answer isn’t so clear–we’ve been getting conflicting information from the get-go.
We have been told that:
- masks should be reserved for healthcare professionals and those at high-risk of infection
- some sort of face-covering no matter how simple is a must
- only some masks are effective and must be properly fitted
- they don’t do much to prevent contracting the virus so are used to prevent transmission of it
- they do prevent contracting the virus
- masks are pretty much ineffective and can even provide a false sense of security.
Sometimes all of these claims are by the same health expert. One example is the conflicting information provided by Dr. Anthony Fauci, an infectious disease expert and member of the Coronavirus Task Force.
What are we supposed to believe with so much contradicting information?
Here is Dr. Fauci last month saying that masks were largely unnecessary.
On June 12, speaking to The Street, Dr. Fauci says that masks are effective and that the U.S. public wasn’t told that early on in order to prevent a shortage for healthcare workers.
Host Katherine Ross asks what the deal is on masks and why we were told not to wear them early in the spring and are being urged to now.
FAUCI: Masks are not 100 percent protective. However, they certainly are better than not wearing a mask. Both to prevent you, if you happen to be a person who maybe feels well, but has an asymptomatic infection that you don’t even know about, to prevent you from infecting someone else. But also, it can protect you a certain degree, not a hundred percent, in protecting you from getting infected from someone who, either is breathing, or coughing, or sneezing, or singing, or whatever it is in which the droplets or the aerosols go out. So masks work. The important thing is actually physical separation. So, physical separation that we talk about all the time, is the best way to get a virus not to get to you, but often it’s impossible, physically, logistically to be physically separated to the right extent from everyone. So that’s the reason why you combine physical separation with a mask, even though a mask isn’t 100 percent protective. But it does give you some protection, so you shouldn’t discount that. Now, getting back to your first question, which was, what about a month or so or two or three ago when people were saying “you don’t really need to wear a mask.” Well, the reason for that is that we were concerned–the public health community–and many people were saying this, were concerned that it was at a time when the N-95 masks and the surgical masks were in very short supply, and we wanted to make sure that the people–namely, the healthcare workers who were brave enough to put themselves in harm’s way to take care of people who you know were infected with the coronavirus and the danger of them getting infected–we did not want them to be without the equipment that they needed so there was not enthusiasm about everybody going out and buying a mask or getting a mask. We were afraid that that would deter away from the people that really needed it. Now we have masks and we know that you don’t need an N-95 if you’re a person, an ordinary person in the street. We also know that simple cloth coverings that many people have can work as well as a mask in cases. So, right now, unequivocally, the recommendation is, when you’re out there, particularly if you’re out there in a situation where there’s active infection, keep the distance physically and wear a mask. So, although there appear to be some contradictions of we’re saying this then, and why are you saying this now, actually the circumstances have changed. That’s the reason why.
It’s not unusual these days for people to be wearing a mask when it isn’t really necessary like:
- walking around outside with no one around them
- running or biking
- driving their car
- walking their dog
Some of this is just really, really silly. The likelihood of outdoor transmission is very low, especially if you keep that 6′ social distance guideline. But also, are you going to get the virus from your dog, or driving alone in your car?
Clearly, there are some really fearful people out there taking precautions to the extreme. Also, experts have to be better about explaining proper mask use and when it’s required.
So, how long are we going to go through all this?
It looks like it’s not going to end anytime soon.
According to Trish Greenhalgh, a primary-care professor at the University of Oxford, we’re going to be wearing masks until “there are no new cases, or very few cases.”
Buckle up, kiddies, it looks like it might be a while.