Should you wear a mask in public? Healthcare pros say it’s being researched, but could provide false sense of security
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - It seems like a good idea: wearing a mask in public during a pandemic. Or is it?
“There’s a lot to just taking the masks on and off that bears some concern in the equation of whether everyone should wear it everyday or not,” said Dr. Louis Minsky, chief of staff at Baton Rouge General Hospital.
The surgical masks are easily identifiable. They can be tied or looped around the ears for safekeeping. Doctors say they can stop viruses from entering the air.
“Yes, it’s primarily stopping the secretions from spreading out into the air,” Dr. Minsky said, “but it’s also in large part filtering some of the particles that may be exposed in the environment.”
Dr. Minsky says the surgical masks are “blocking particles to a great degree,” adding that the masks “reduce the secretions being expressed during a cough or sneeze… any type of maneuver where secretions would come from the mouth or nose.”
N95 masks are used when medical staff, like respiratory therapists, nurses, or doctors on the front lines, are conducting “any type of oral or pharyngeal type of procedure” on a COVID-19 positive patient, blocking out bacteria. The surgical masks are the next best thing, worn around the clock by nurses and doctors treating patients, according to Dr. Minsky. But should the person next to you in the checkout line have one on if they’re not sick?
Dr. Minsky says all aspects are being evaluated to determine what the proper guidelines should be when it comes to people in the community wearing masks. He says members of the healthcare system simply don’t have enough masks to go around, which could be why top health officials are researching whether surgical masks should be worn daily.
“The negatives to wearing a mask gives a false sense of security,” Dr. Minsky explained. “Patients tend to not maintain six feet social distancing when they take their masks off. They actually contaminate their hands when they touch the outside of the mask. They may touch their face or their mouth, and they may forget to wash their hands immediately after removing,” he said.
Dr. Minsky adds that it could also take away from professionals on the front lines who are taking care of very sick people.
It boils down to proper use. Right now, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says only the sick should wear masks, with no recommendations for everyone else. Dr. Minsky says the masks also could make some think they can move and talk freely when they really shouldn’t.
“There is an expiration date. It can’t just be worn all day, everyday endlessly,” Dr. Minsky said.
He says the masks will retain the moisture from breathing and become less effective.
The CDC says if you're taking care of someone that's been diagnosed, a mask should be worn.
For the people that wear gloves to protect themselves while running errands, Dr. Minsky has some advice.
“Wearing gloves all day long is no different from having your bare hands because the gloves are going to pick up everything your hands would unless you’re washing the gloves. If you’re going to go to the grocery store and you’re going to wear the gloves to walk around with the cart, you just need to take them off. Don’t get back in the car with the gloves, drive home, and stay in your gloves because you’ve picked up everything you’ve come into contact with," he said.
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