Throughout the last couple of weeks, our focus on the coronavirus (COVID-19) has drastically changed. For months the coronavirus has been the highlight of all media organizations and a significant talking point. However, with the recent events that highlight racial injustices in the United States, we have seen many people stand up and fight for justice across the country. In all 50 states, there has been mass gatherings as people protest. During the protests, many people are seen wearing masks, but not social distancing. Although these protests are necessary and even encouraged, they do not mean that precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 should be ignored. These protests have also led to the media stopping the coverage of COVID-19 and daily updates on new information, which has led to people forgetting about its dangers and the precautions they need to take.
Additionally, many governors have begun moving towards the later stages of reopening the economy. Restaurants and stores have started to reopen at limited capacity, leading to more people coming out of quarantine in their houses to get back to normal and help out the businesses that they used to regularly enjoy. However, just because everything is beginning to reopen, it does not mean that the risks of COVID-19 have gone away. In fact, they have increased as we reopen businesses and as more people gather together. Even though the media has not been covering COVID-19 and governors are reopening their states, it is still spreading across the country. Some states are showing a decrease in the number of new cases, but it could be a direct result of the precautions that have been put in place, not the virus going away. According to the CDC’s statistics, we continue to see over 25,000 new cases each day.
Wearing a mask and social distancing are encouraged in public areas to help slow the spread of the virus and reduce the risk of contracting the virus. By wearing a mask, you do not necessarily prevent yourself from getting the virus, but you are helping protect other people from yourself. If you are wearing a mask and the people around you are wearing masks, the spread of the virus can be greatly reduced by the most significant degree possible.
Wearing the masks correctly is very important. The mask should fit your face and cover both your nose and mouth. In addition, it is recommended to wear cloth masks due to the short supply of surgical and N95 masks, which are needed by medical professionals and first responders. Cloth masks can be easily made, bought, washed and reused, making them the best option for everyday use.
The major misconception about wearing a mask is that social distancing does not apply. However, this is not the case. Wearing a mask is to complement social distancing to maximize the benefit. By combining both social distancing and mask wearing, we can help slow the spread to make time for scientists to discover more effective treatments for COVID-19 and develop a vaccine before the virus takes more lives. In addition, wearing a mask and social distancing could help prevent a second wave from spreading across the country, which would claim even more lives and cause re-closures of businesses.
In all, these are challenging times. It is very easy to forget about the risks of COVID-19 during the fight for racial injustices and the reopening of businesses. However, the virus is still spreading and claiming lives. It is up to each of us individually to make the right choice by continuing to practice social distancing and mask wearing to slow the spread and protect those who are most vulnerable.
This column was provided by Samantha Cravens, CHES, Health Educator with the Montgomery County Health Department. Reach her at 765-361-4130.