Masks, a subject up for debate, or not?

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10,044 new cases of COVID-19 were announced by the Florida Department of Health on Tuesday, July 7, which brings the state total to 223,783. The number of reported deaths of Florida residents is 3,889. Collier County is rapidly approaching 5,500 positive cases of COVID-19, 1,627 of those cases are in Immokalee.

Statistics seem to point to countries with high mask wearing culture, like the Czech Republic, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea are experiencing fewer deaths due to COVID-19, while countries with low mask wearing culture like Italy, Spain, and the United States are experiencing high numbers of coronavirus related deaths.

Despite this information, Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to resist requiring face coverings. Meanwhile 14 states, and the District of Columbia, have implemented mandatory face mask requirements in public spaces and most of Florida’s major cities now require wearing face masks in public.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Face coverings may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others.” The CDC also recommends, “Wearing cloth face coverings in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”

Yet, both nationally and locally, the debate over efficacy of wearing masks is still happening. It’s a discussion seen repeatedly on social media, commonly overheard while shopping for groceries, and even sometimes occurring in city and county government meetings. Much of the confusion around masks stems from the two very different reasons for using them ingress and egress.

Masks are worn in order to protect the wearer from ingress (meaning transmission from the outside to the wearer of the mask), which can prove to be quite difficult. But masks can also be used to prevent transmission from the wearer of the mask to others, known as egress. The latter being arguably easier to accomplish and likely the most important reason for wearing a mask.

“I read a study where it showed that if 80 percent of people wear masks that are 60 percent effective, something easily achievable with cloth, it then becomes possible to halt the spread of the disease. It seems well worth a try. Especially in the interest of saving lives!” said, Hannah McRoy, a retired nurse and local resident, after she read through several long social media discussions between other locals.

Some argued that wearing a mask isn’t necessary nor effective, but others argued that research has shown the opposite. In one of many social media arguments, a comment on Facebook from Ted Hass read, “It’s a false sense of protection, where you are protecting yourself and others. Most masks can not even protect against against bacterial infections, let alone a virus, which is many times smaller than bacteria. Even the hospital mask can not protect you from a virus. Then there is the case of you not getting enough oxygen, rebreathing CO2 and using mask that needs to be change every 30 minutes. Do your own research outside of the media (fake news). The “New Cases” are NOT new positive case, but people coming in to be tested and therefore, they open up a “New Case” until test comes back positive or negative. This also is the case for people testing for the anti-bodies and therefore a “New Case” is opened for that. Yet the Media are insinuating they are new positive cases.”

One of the replies to Haas came from, Shannen Leahy. It read, “Ted Haas I’d love to see a paper supporting your idea. I agree that we should look deeper than the conventional media outlets for our information. Here is a scientific article supporting the use of masks to prevent the spread of Covid. https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/10.1377/hlthaff.2020.00818”

Some also argued that masks can be uncomfortable. Some also said they choose not to wear masks because they feel like they are taking a stand against authority, or simply just won’t wear one because of peer pressure. A few were concerned that wearing a mask may not be safe, especially in long term situations. Even sharing a graphics, that continue to circulate on Facebook, where a number of supposed health risks were listed, including: weakening immune systems, decreasing oxygen intake, and increasing inhalation of toxins and CO2. The graphics have been flagged for containing false information by Facebook’s independent fact-checkers.

“It’s not even a question at this point….There are countries that have already given us the answers to the test!!! South Korea has 52 million people (1/6 the US) plus 25,000 US military packed into the area of Indiana and they have had 282 total deaths…. Everyone wore masks from day 1 (which was the same day the US had our first case as well). At one month in they were doing the same amount of tests per day that we were doing per month for the whole US….They also used contact tracing very accurately… This isn’t a question of whether it might work or might not work…. (Even though if that was a question it’s a no brainier to try since it might)… It’s already been proven… My friends stationed in S. Korea say everything is back to normal now, and their are no new deaths…..” commented TJ Ennis on the same Facebook post regarding mask wearing.

“A huge part of the problem is that there is so much that is unknown about COVID-19. Until there is a treatment or vaccine, much remains uncertain, causing widespread division, panic, anxiety, and even suffering,” a local physician explained, after seeing the various social media posts, “What is known for sure, is that not taking any precautions can and has resulted in wider spread of the disease, and can directly result in sickness and/or death. Wearing a mask may help slow or even prevent those complications. It may help save the life of a complete stranger, or maybe someone you love- isn’t it worth it to try?”

According to the Florida Department of Health (FDOH), “There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus (and avoid exposing other people).” The FDOH recommends: “Wear a cloth face cover in public: Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others and out in public, such as the grocery store. Do NOT use a facemask meant for a healthcare worker. Don’t place a cloth face cover on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or any who is unable to remove the mask without assistance.Why? You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick. The cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected.”

For more information regarding COVID-19 and face coverings, visit the Florida Department of Health online at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html

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