By Dr. Julian Kuffler
My mask protects you. Your mask protects me. Together we help protect our community.
There is much we still have to learn about COVID-19. But there are some things that are already clear. It is very easily spread between humans and it has a hugely variable effect on people.
It is spread mostly by tiny droplets of moisture from an infected person’s nose or mouth. Sneezing, coughing or simply talking release droplets. If you wear a mask around others, you significantly reduce the amount of moisture that gets away from you. You are also somewhat protected from others, but it is the mask the other person is wearing that will do you the most good. If you do not wear a mask and you happen to be sick, you will be a COVID-19 volcano when in public.
You might be sick right now and not know it. As many as 40 percent of those with COVID-19 don’t have symptoms but can still spread the illness. The rest who do have symptoms may be contagious for a couple of days before getting sick. You already know that this virus kills and maims a significant percentage of those who are infected. Sure, masks might still seem a little weird, and it will be great when we don’t have to wear them anymore. But that is a petty excuse to refuse to wear one now. Political or partisan arguments against wearing masks are even worse.
The virus is raging out of control in many parts of the country. Robert Redfield, the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, has said that if everyone wore masks in public, nationally we could begin to see improvement in infection rates in a few weeks. Masks, combined with distancing (6 feet is about as far as heavier droplets from a person’s nose or mouth can travel), frequent hand washing, keeping your hands away from your face and avoiding spending extended periods of time in crowds, will greatly help you not get or give this disease.
It will also permit the continued opening up of MDI, hopefully including schools. The people of this state deserve enormous credit for how effective the shutdown was in preventing a surge of cases. I know it’s not fast enough for some, but it is good to see businesses slowly opening up, which is the only safe way to do it right now. But to neighbors and visitors alike: This virus has not gone away. It is currently under control by virtue of our sacrifices and hard work. We will only avoid the fate of so many in the South and West if you keep doing these few simple, absolutely non-optional things: WEAR A MASK. Keep six feet away from others as much as possible. Stay home when you can. Limit your social activities as much as possible. Wash your hands often, and keep them away from your face while in pubic.
Julian Kuffler, MD/MPH is a Member of the MDI COVID-19 Taskforce