Myths About Masks: Infectious Disease Expert Breaks Down All of Your Burning Questions

Of all the things to be up in arms about in 2020, the one that takes the cake is the passionate argument over wearing a mask—or rather, not wearing one.

Some believe wearing a mask is an infringement on our freedoms. Others believe it’s a conspiracy and will argue that masks deprive you of oxygen. I’ve seen arguments that suggest a mask will make you sicker, while others have taken the bi-partisan route, claiming to not wear a mask out of spite for the opposite political party. Another popular argument: having a medical condition that makes you exempt from having to wear a mask.

Whichever way you spin it, there’s no arguing that the call to wear a mask is here for the long haul, as experts and epidemiologists around the globe continue to discover more and more data that suggests wearing a mask could literally save lives.

As coronavirus numbers across the U.S. continue to skyrocket, experts are on a mission to debunk some of the most popular myths about masks.

At the beginning of the pandemic, experts believed that the spread of COVID-19 was largely fomite—meaning that transmission could happen through touching surfaces and then touching your face or mouth. Recommendations for the general public at that time did not include masks because personal protective equipment (PPE) was in short supply and high demand. Officials didn’t want—and still do not want—the public community to take away essential PPE from health care workers who desperately need it.

In the months since, experts have discovered that COVID-19 is not spread on surfaces, but rather, person-to-person—mostly through speech droplets.

As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging people to wear a stop the spread of coronavirus.

In an update to its “considerations for wearing a face mask,” the CDC says that wearing cloth face coverings are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings—especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

“Cloth face coverings are recommended as a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the cloth face covering coughs, sneezes, talks or raises their voice. This is called source control,” the CDC says. “This recommendation is based on what we know about the role respiratory droplets play in the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, paired with emerging evidence from clinical and laboratory studies that shows cloth face coverings reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth.”

According to Laurel Bristow, President of Clinical Research of Infectious Disease at Emory University, the reason that COVID-19 has been so difficult to control is because of when people are the most likely to infect others.

“We’re finding that people are the most infectious and the most likely to infect others right before or at the development of symptoms,” she said in an interview with News Not Noise’s Jessica Yellin. “So unlike things like the flu, when you are the most infectious when you have the most symptoms, people will be out and about, living their lives, they’ll feel totally fine, and they’re actually spreading the virus to everybody else.”


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You have so many questions about masks: why they work, if they can make you sick, when you need them etc. I got an expert to give you the answers. The interview starts about 90 seconds in. This is Laurel Bristow @kinggutterbaby. She is an infectious diseases clinical researcher specializing in respiratory pathogens. She’s doing COVID-19 research at @emoryuniversity and she knows her stuff. Follow her @kinggutterbaby. If you’d like this texted to you so you can share the video with friends, text “send video” to 202.918.3794. #newsnotnoise #wearamask #science #askanexpert #publichealth #publicsafety #besmart

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Bri Lamm
Bri Lamm
Bri Lamm is the Editor of An outgoing introvert with a heart that beats for adventure, she lives to serve the Lord, experience the world, and eat macaroni and cheese all while capturing life’s greatest moments on one of her favorite cameras. Follow her on Facebook.

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