Should We Wear Masks to Protect Us From Ourselves?

Depending on where you live, might see one or two people wearing face masks to ward off the coronavirus, or you might see most people wearing them.  Now U.S. health officials are considering recommending everyone don a mask when in public as a way to prevent transmission of the disease, but it might be too soon to take that step, and it isn’t for the reason you think.

The wide use of masks outside the healthcare setting, which has been employed in other countries with some success, is under active consideration by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the White House coronavirus task force will discuss it on Tuesday, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert.

Fauci,director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said:

“The thing that has inhibited that bit is to make sure that we don’t take away the supply of masks from the  healthcare workers who need them.”

Healthcare workers across the country can’t get enough of the N95 respirator masks and surgical masks as they treat an onslaught of highly contagious patients.  Part of the shortage comes from the fact that individual consumers are buying them to wear when outside or shopping.

When the country gets into a situation where there are enough masks, Fauci said, there will be very serious consideration of broadening the recommendation on face masks.

Fauci said:

“We’re not there yet, but I think we’re coming close to some determination, because if in fact a person who may or may not be infected wants to prevent infecting someone else, one of the best ways to do that is with a mask.”

His logic is the reverse of what most people think.  Just wearing a mask doesn’t dramatically decrease the risk of contracting the disease, but it can do a lot to stop an infected person, whether they know it or not, from spreading the disease.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams cautioned that wearing surgical-type cotton masks may not protect healthy Americans from contracting coronavirus and may even put them more at risk, since people who wear masks were likely to touch their face to make adjustments.

 

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