Are Facial Coverings Here to Stay?

10/08/2020

Why Wearing Masks Is the New Norm

Wearing masks is the new norm

By Melissa Wirkus Hagstrom, contributor 

According to the latest data from the Coronavirus Resource Center Dashboard at Johns Hopkins University, as of October 1, 2020, U.S. COVID-19 cases have surpassed 7 million and over 200,000 people have lost their lives to the disease. Half of the states have also seen an increase in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, as of that same date.

With fall in full swing and college students back on campus in some locations, experts are seeing these upticks as a warning sign for an onslaught of cases. But research shows there are steps that can help curb the spread of the coronavirus. One of the most critical is wearing a mask.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people wear masks in public settings and when around people who don’t live in their household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

“We are not defenseless against COVID-19,” said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, MD, in a July 14, 2020 press release. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.”

The only exceptions to CDC’s mask recommendations are for people in the following categories:

  • Children younger than 2 years old
  • Anyone who has trouble breathing
  • Anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance

Except for these three categories, you and your patients can expect wearing masks to be the new norm when out in public. Especially now that over half of U.S. states have some sort of face mask mandate in place.

According to information released by AARP on October 1, 2020, 33 states have now issued mandates that require a face mask in public. Although the mandates vary on a state-by-state basis, most require citizens to wear facial coverings in public settings such as stores and when using public transportation. Examples include grocery stores, restaurants, malls, parks, buses, etc. 

Fighting a global pandemic: Wearing masks becomes the new norm 

The efficacy of facial covering mandates relies on the majority of the general public wearing masks when they are in a public or crowded setting where appropriate social distancing cannot be applied. 

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine released a prediction that nearly 770,000 lives worldwide could be saved between September and January 1 through proven measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing. 

IHME has outlined three possible global scenarios for the next few months: 

1.;   A “worst case” in which mask usage stays at current rates and governments continue relaxing social distancing requirements, leading to 4 million global deaths by the end of the year

2.;   A “best case” of 2 million total deaths if mask usage is near-universal and governments impose social distancing requirements when their daily death rate exceeds 8 per million; and 

3.;   A “most likely” scenario that assumes individual mask use and other mitigation measures remain unchanged, resulting in approximately 2.8 million total deaths.

These scenarios are sobering to say the least. In order for mask wearing to help stop the spread of COVID-19, it will require greater buy-in and compliance from everyone who is able to wear one. It means that wearing masks should be the new normal, at least for the time being.

“These first-ever worldwide projections by country offer a daunting forecast as well as a roadmap toward relief from COVID-19 that government leaders as well as individuals can follow,” said IHME Director Christopher Murray, MD, DPhil, in a news release on September 3, 2020. “We are facing the prospect of a deadly December, especially in Europe, Central Asia, and the United States. But the science is clear and the evidence irrefutable: mask-wearing, social distancing, and limits to social gatherings are vital to helping prevent transmission of the virus.” 

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