Update from Dr. Molly O’Dell for August 12 Edition

I get many questions from the community about the purpose, importance, and impact of wearing a cloth face covering. First, it is important to understand the purpose of a cloth face covering. The purpose of a lay person wearing a cloth face covering in public is to protect others from our germs. You may have heard that it is important to behave as if we have the disease. Wearing a cloth face covering does just that – perhaps we are asymptomatic carriers or perhaps we are infected but have not yet fallen ill. If we are wearing a cloth face covering when we go out in public, we are containing our germs from spreading to others. Of course, masks are a second line of defense and it is always important to practice social distancing by staying at least 6 feet away from others.

Wearing a cloth face covering is a COMPASSIONATE act. It is a sign that you care about others around you and want to keep them safe and healthy, including those at the highest risk for COVID-19 and those who interact with the public frequently (such as those in restaurants or stores). We are wearing our face coverings to keep the germs in our respiratory droplets away from others. I like to think of it as an extension of “cough etiquette” which is the act of covering our coughs and sneezes. The face covering also covers our breath, talking, singing, etc.

Wearing a cloth face covering is a SMART act. When the pandemic started, stay at home orders were issued and we all recognized that we are safest at home. As we studied the virus, we have come to understand that wearing a face covering combined with social distancing and cleaning high touch areas will mitigate most of the risk of disease transmission. While we reopened our businesses, and as many of our schools, daycares, and colleges plan to return this fall, we knew that it was important to alter our behavior to keep us safe. Reopening and being out in public without wearing a face covering allows disease to spread much more easily and quickly.

Wearing a cloth face covering is a SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE act. While it is a nuisance for many of us, most community members realize that wearing a face covering is a valuable, appreciated, and compassionate act. I now see most people wearing their cloth face coverings in public and at social gatherings. Masks are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings. We recognize that wearing a face covering helps to keep our businesses open, helps our children return safely to school, and keeps our community members safe and healthy. Not wearing a face covering risks the spread of disease to others, which can cause businesses to close, risk the safety of our children in schools, and risks the health of everyone, including our older adults and others vulnerable to COVID-19.

A face covering should be worn outdoors if you cannot guarantee social distancing, when you are riding in a vehicle with individuals outside your household, and when you are sharing an indoor space with others in public.

Please join me in wearing a cloth face covering. It can be a homemade covering, a cloth mask, or a bandana. We are running the “I’ve Got You Covered” campaign and I encourage you to post on social media a photo of yourself in your face covering and use the hashtag: #IveGotYouCovered.

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