– Becoming too relaxed, may be to our detriment
By Dr Zulfikar Bux
Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine
The “everyone wears a mask campaign” was initiated in Guyana in late March 2020. While it had initially caught on, I’m noticing a recent relaxed approach to mask use by many. This is a dangerous trend; we need to keep up the mask use campaign else we may have a surge of infections from this deadly virus. Recent evidence from studies show that mask use may be the best preventative option as societies begin to open up. Today I will provide more evidence why we all need to wear masks and help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
THIS VIRUS IS STILL AROUND
Last week, I wrote that we had not seen any new cases for a few days; unfortunately, we have seen a small rise in cases since then. Many of us are becoming too relaxed with our actions and think the worse is over. Be reminded that this is far from the fact and we need to remain vigilant and practice preventative measures as much as possible. There are many states in the US that became too relaxed with their approach and are now seeing an increase in cases. This virus feeds on our weaknesses and pounces on populations that are too relaxed with preventative measures. Our current weather is making it more conducive for the virus to spread. If we become too relaxed, it may lead to a second surge in infections that can be more devastating.
THE MAIN ROUTE OF SPREAD
Recent studies are confirming that airborne spread is the main route for the coronavirus infection. The coronavirus is spread in airborne droplets that get expelled especially when people talk, sneeze or cough. A study published two days ago in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal showed that the airborne transmission route is highly virulent and dominant for the spread of COVID-19. Our current cold and rainy weather will only make it worse as research suggest the virus thrives in such climates. The best way to minimize the virus being in the air while we are opening up is for us all to wear a mask.
THE GAME CHANGER
The same PNAS study revealed that the difference with and without mandated face covering represents the determinant in shaping the trends of the pandemic. It showed a positive association between the implementation of facemask use and a significant reduction in infections in the epicenters of the disease (Wuhan, New York and Italy). The study also concluded that other mitigation measures, such as social distancing implemented in the United States, are insufficient by themselves in protecting the public. Another study published in the Royal Society Journals found that 100 per cent mask adoption combined with on/off lockdowns prevented any further disease resurgence for the 18 months required for a possible vaccine. They even found that routine face mask use by 50 per cent or more of the population reduced the COVID-19 spread and flattened future disease waves and allowed less-stringent lockdowns. They suggested that – while the sooner the better – a policy of total face mask adoption can still prevent a second wave even if it is not instigated until 120 days after an epidemic begins.
THE URGE TO REOPEN VS A SECOND WAVE
We are battling the finer points of being able to thrive while staying alive. The coronavirus has taken away our ability to freely maneuver these expected norms. While some of us are choosing the reckless and more relaxed option, there is evidence now showing that we can be able to find a balance until there is a cure for this disease. We cannot become too relaxed; the fight is not over until a cure is found. If we get too relaxed, we may have a second wave that devastates our country. Let us prevent this devastation by proudly wearing our mask and practice the other preventative measures against this deadly virus. Thank you to my old pal Roger Luckham for sharing some of the data in this article with me.
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