May 20, 2022 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

Ask the Doctor with Dr. Jeanelle Murphy: Why are face masks important during the pandemic?

Face coverings have now become the norm thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. The importance of face masks for the general public was not recognized at first but is now recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) because the benefits have been shown. In fact, wearing a face mask in public is the single most important step that we can take to help prevent the spread of this deadly virus next to washing our hands and social distancing. The goal is for 100% of the population to wear face masks in public but it’s been estimated that if 95% of the population in the United States were to do so we could prevent 30,000 deaths by October 1 from Covid-19.*

Simple cloth face masks suffice to help decrease transmission of SARS Cov 2, the virus that causes Covid 19 because the main form of transmission that we know of at this time is droplet transmission from person to person. Droplets are released from our mouth and nose when we breathe, talk, sing, cough or sneeze and if we are wearing a face-covering this covering will catch the droplets and prevent them from spreading to people or surfaces around us. If we are wearing a face covering the droplets also then can’t get away and turn into smaller particles that can travel further.

Face coverings are safe to wear for people over the age of 2 who are physically and mentally able to remove the mask on their own if needed. There are a variety of masks to choose from and some are easier to breathe in than others. Even a thin covering offers some protection.

The numbers are down in Illinois and we have entered phase 4 so it is crucial that as we are getting out again and seeing people that we protect others and ourselves by covering our mouth and nose whenever possible. This is more important when we are indoors but it is also important when outdoors and even if we are keeping a 6-foot distance from others although it is best to do all three Covid 19 prevention tools that we have-wear a mask, wash hands often and keep a 6 or more foot distance from others who do not live with us whenever possible.  This is hard but won’t last forever.


*The IHME model (University of Washington) of projected COVID-19 deaths by October 1, comparing projections based on the current trajectory to the estimated outcome with a national mask requirement. 

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