Coronavirus FAQ: Should I Wear A Mask?


– The coronavirus is a respiratory virus. It’s spread from person to person, it lands in our respiratory tract, when I breathe out, I breathe out, if I’m infected, my exhaled air, but it has microscopic viruses in it, and if you’re standing within
three to six feet of me, you may inhale and take some of my viruses with you, and that can infect you. So the notion is, “Hmmm, I wonder if I can provide a barrier “by using a mask “so that the virus can’t get through.” Nice idea, but it doesn’t work very well. In fact, think about it for a second. If it worked so well, wouldn’t the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, make a recommendation
each influenza season that we all walk around masked like a whole bunch of bank robbers? Well, they don’t, and that’s because the data showing that in the community such masks protect us, those data are scanty, if non-existent. The masks are actually rather thin, they’re not designed to
prevent viruses from going in. And also, those masks, those surgical masks that
you can buy in the store, they actually don’t fit very
tightly around the edge, so if you breathe in and out, you can actually feel the air going around the edges of the mask, which kind of destroys their purpose. Now, just for completeness, in the healthcare setting when we take care of patients with influenza and coronavirus, we use something much stronger. It’s called an N95 respirator. You notice we don’t use the mask. Respirator, it’s much thicker, and it’s designed to
be fitted very tightly around your nose, cheeks, and chin. We’re trained to put it on. Every time you put it on, you have to fit, check it to make sure that there’s no
air going around the edges. When we wear those respirators, we can tell. The work of breathing in
and out is much harder because you’re pushing the air through a very thick membrane. That does offer protection, but you have to be trained to use them, and the general public is not. Besides, let’s think about it. There’s a limited supply
of these respirators. We wouldn’t want the public
to drain off that supply so we in healthcare, taking care of the sickest patients, wouldn’t have them available, and there is that risk. Bottom line, those masks may make you
feel a little better, but they really don’t do much good.

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