Do I really need to wear a mask? Health officials say ‘yes’

Several myths prevent people from wearing a mask or wearing one properly.
Updated: Jul. 2, 2020 at 11:07 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The information relative to effective prevention of spreading COVID-19 can seem confusing due to ever-changing recommendations. But top health officials in Louisiana are urging residents to wear masks and take social distancing seriously.

“When you’re wearing a mask, you’re being a good neighbor, because you’re not so much doing it for yourself, you’re doing it for the people who are around you,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards.

During a press conference held Wednesday, June 24, Dr. Jimmy Guidry, State Health Officer and Louisiana Department of Health’s Medical Director, addressed some common misconceptions that have convinced some to not wear masks and others to wear them improperly.

Dr. Guidry: Think of this virus as spreading in a mist, in liquid particles, and there’s no barriers – if I talk, if I sneeze, if I cough – what keeps it from going to this person just a few feet away? [A mask] helps. Everything that you do to make sure that you’re not close to someone, and you’re wearing a mask, protects the person that you’re next to. Wearing a cloth mask does work because it can effectively block the spread, and there have been many tests showing that this does work. So, there are disbelievers, but we do know that it works, but it’s only a part of what we need to do that works, but it’s an important part.

Dr. Guidry: We see a lot of folks who feel good, they don’t feel like they are putting anyone at risk, and they refuse to wear a mask, and they don’t realize that this virus if you have it you can be asymptomatic and you can be spreading it. So, it’s a little effort, and it may be a little uncomfortable, but we know, if you wear this mask you’re going to minimize the exposure and even if you’re not sick you could still be spreading COVID and we’ve all heard about and now that we’re doing all this testing we’re proving it over and over again – people with no symptoms tested positive, so we know that’s a fact. Just because you don’t have symptoms, doesn’t mean you can’t spread it.

Dr. Guidry: You need layers of protection. You need the mask, you need to keep your distance and you need to avoid large crowds. To show you what’s happened through all of these events, when we first started seeing COVID, we saw a lot of the infection around and we started seeing it get to the vulnerable population in nursing homes. And then, with the governor’s order, we got people to stay home and we saw the virus slowly stop infecting people because they weren’t going out and about, because they weren’t taking risks and we saw the numbers coming down. Then we started opening up with the phases and people don’t think the virus is that much to worry about and so they’re not doing the things that they need to do. So, these myths are what’s driving misinformation and not taking this virus seriously. This virus is coming back and laughing at us saying, ‘I was just waiting for you to let up. I’m here and I’m going to start infecting again.’ And it’s going to start in young people and then it’s going to get over to the vulnerable population. We know how it plays out because witnessed it all through the Spring.

Dr. Guidry: I can’t tell you how often I go out and about and I see people wearing their mask [under their nose] like a chinstrap. How are you preventing these particles from going to the next person? That’s not serving any purpose. They think, I’m not spitting, I’m not coughing, but your nose is where air’s moving, it’s where the fluids are moving, so anything that comes out of your nose or your mouth can be infectious. And the whole intent of the mask, along with social distancing, along with avoiding crowds, is to keep this virus under control. So, we’ve been saying it over and over again, but we see what happens when we don’t take it seriously and we let off our guard. We want to go back to normal lives, but we need to do these things as we get back to near normal that we’re not compromising folks that are at risk, businesses that were closed for months that now have to close again because we’re not wearing a mask and keeping our social distancing. We jeopardize the economy, we jeopardize lives when we don’t take these simple measures seriously.

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