To Wear The Mask, or To Not Wear The Mask?

FAQs/Talking Points on Mask-wearing

As COVID-19 cases again start to rise in Michigan, Governor Whitmer issued a new executive order, EO 2020-147, requiring masks in public places.

Q: Is wearing a mask effective in stopping the spread of coronavirus?

A: Yes, wearing a face mask is effective in helping slow the spread of COVID-19, in addition to regularly (and thoroughly) washing hands and practicing physical distancing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that by covering your mouth and nose, you’re significantly lowering the chances of spreading infection through small droplets that come out of your mouth when you talk, sneeze and cough.

Q: What kind of mask should I wear?

A: Masks can be made of different materials and designs, which influence their filtering
capability. Although they cannot be washed, disposable masks are fluid resistant and effective in providing some protection against the spread of infectious droplets from person to person. It was also found in a recent lab study that masks made of household materials such as cloth have up to a 60% filtration rate for droplets that are linked to spreading COVID-19. The CDC has provided guidance on how to make a mask with common household materials. The most important thing is to use something to cover your nose, mouth and chin: a mask, scarf or otherwise.

Q: What is the proper way to wear a mask?

A: Face masks, even if loose-fitting, should be worn to cover the nose, mouth and chin. If possible, adjust the mask so there are no gaps on either side. Additionally, it’s important to wash hands before touching your mask, inspect for holes or tears, and avoid touching the mask once it’s on. Disposable masks should be discarded immediately after use, preferably in a closed bin.

Q: Should I still practice physical distancing while wearing a mask?

A: Yes – public health experts report that masks alone cannot prevent the spread of COVID-19. Continue staying home when possible and maintaining at least a 6-foot distance from others in public, in addition to washing hands frequently and thoroughly.

Q: Do I still need to wear a mask if I’m healthy?

A: Yes. Mask-wearing is an essential preventive measure, even for those who consider
themselves healthy or who aren’t experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. According to the CDC, many of those who are COVID-19-positive don’t show symptoms, so the risk of the virus may be present to others, especially vulnerable people, whether or not you realize you are sick.

Q: If I wear a mask, am I safe interacting with those who don’t?

A: While the risk of spreading COVID-19 is lower when at least one individual is wearing a mask, the probability is lowest (70%+ less likely) when both (or all) parties are wearing masks while practicing physical distancing.

Q: Does wearing a mask cause oxygen deficiency?

A: No, wearing surgical masks does not have any consequential effects on respiration or lead to inhaling toxic levels of CO2.

Only an airtight mask could possibly cause any breathing difficulty. That eliminates cloth masks, the preferred personal protective equipment in public. It actually eliminates N95 respirators, too, usually reserved for healthcare professionals. They fit tighter than a cloth mask but still not tight enough on the face to kill. Surgeons wear even more substantial face coverings all day without endangering their health.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention representative told Reuters that carbon dioxide, indeed, will collect between the mask and face but not in dangerous amounts. A mask is designed to trap viral droplets, much larger than tiny carbon dioxide particles. A mask, either N95 or cloth, cannot trap all carbon dioxide particles — they either go through the mask or escape along the mask’s perimeter.

The CDC still recommends cloth masks in public, with these exceptions:

  • Children under age 2.
  • Anyone exhibiting breathing difficulties or otherwise incapacitated.

Q: Why should I wear a mask when it’s my right not to?

A: First and foremost, masks protect others – especially the vulnerable. In addition, during the peak of COVID-19 in Michigan this spring, millions of workers were laid off or out of work entirely. Many businesses have not survived. Experts, including Goldman Sachs and Stanford’s Institute for Economic Policy Research, predict that consistent and widespread mask wearing could significantly reduce further spread and help avoid a second wave during which businesses would have to close again. Mask wearing is critical for the health of both our people and our economy.

We appreciate all those doing their part to keep themselves and others safe as we navigate this evolving virus. Patients with questions may visit our website, threerivershealth.org, or contact their primary care provider.

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