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Wear a mask

In New York state, the authorities have been telling us that we don’t need to wear masks. That just doesn’t make logical sense. Although masks do not provide absolute prevention against the spread of COVID-19, they would reduce the spread. Reducing the spread is essential. If we all wear masks and observe the minimum 6-foot social distance, we will greatly reduce the spread of the disease.

The CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) says that COVID-19 is transmitted primarily by droplets that we emit into the air when we speak, and which we spew into the air when we cough or sneeze. Any kind of mask, even a cloth tied around one’s face, will stop most of the microscopic particles of spittle that the CDC says are the primary means of transmission. It only makes sense that the possibility of transmission of the virus from one person to another is vastly lower if both persons are wearing masks and they maintain a minimum of 6-feet separation.

On a recently broadcast “Mountain Lakes Journal,” two doctors discussing the first case of COVID-19 in Clinton County were not wearing masks, they were sitting side by side, and they chuckled about the fact that they were not observing the recommended 6-foot minimum social distance. This is typical of the messages that we have been getting from much of our leadership. The fact is that the measures that have been taken in this country, to date, have been entirely ineffective at controlling the spread of the disease. Since the middle of January, the number of confirmed cases has been increasing in the United States at between 30% and 33% every day. The higher figure better represents the spread in recent days. If this continues — that is, if we do nothing different — 100 million people in the United States will have become infected before another 30 days have passed.

The situation in China offers us some encouragement. During the early days of the disease in China, they were experiencing an exponential or geometric increase similar to what we are experiencing here. However, the measures taken in China have been successful in stopping the exponential spread and keeping the number of total cases under 100,000 instead of reaching 1 billion, which would have been reached by now if the exponential spread had continued unchecked. We need to learn from China’s success. Our leaders must not continue to downplay the significance of this pandemic and hope that things will somehow work out OK because they always have in the past. It is difficult to take drastic action, but it is far better to take possibly unnecessary drastic action, and cause temporary hardship, than to delay that action and suffer the disastrous consequences.

It is not enough for only those who are sick to wear masks. It is not enough to quarantine only those who are sick. The current exponential spread of the disease proves that this is not enough. The CDC has acknowledged that people can be contagious before they expereince any symptoms. Some people die from the virus, and other people experience only minor symptons. So quite likely, some people can carry the virus and never experience any symptoms. Everyone whose work is not essential to our survival needs to self-isolate as much as possible. Everyone needs to take the 6-foot social distance very seriously. Everyone should wear any kind of mask that they have or they can make. A clean cloth tied around one’s nose and mouth is far better than nothing. It is not necessary to discard masks after one use. Leave used masks untouched, the virus will die, and the masks can be used again. If you can leave a mask unworn for a week, that’s great. Even if you can only leave a mask unworn overnight, wearing it again will be far better than wearing nothing.

What better way can we express our appreciation for those essential workers who sell our groceries, fill our fuel tanks, fill our prescriptions or care for our health than by telling them that we want to protect their health by wearing masks ourselves. Wearing a mask and keeping 6 feet away from others doesn’t say, “I’m sick.” It doesn’t say, “You’re sick.” It says, “I love my fellow Americans, and I want to get this virus under control.”

Chris Seth Murphy lives in Bloomingdale.

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