In Response: If you care about others, please wear your mask
As a community physician, I am naturally concerned about public health. I am heartened by the widespread engagement by our region in following the CDC recommendations to enact physical distancing and mask-wearing, which has had positive results. I particularly appreciate businesses that require masks for admission, a demonstration of concern for the welfare of all individuals. This model should be expanded because the following widely repeated public health facts are clear:
The most significant function of a mask is to protect others from your own potential germs, though mask wearers get some protection from viral transmission as well.
Also, when we all wear masks, we dramatically reduce viral transmission.
Additionally, once infected with the COVID-19 virus, you can be contagious for three days before your first symptom occurs.
Finally, it is common to carry a COVID-19 viral infection without feeling sick at all, and yet you can still infect others.
I was saddened when I read the June 16 “Local View” column, “‘I will not be masked’: Trust workers to say when they’re sick,” which was written by a fitness professional. As I can only believe that no caring human would purposefully want to harm another individual, the commentary underscored that many people still do not understand that people can be contagious in the absence of symptoms. That’s one of the biggest problems we face around this COVID-19 situation. It may be your “right” to not wear a mask — just as it may be your right to spit in someone’s face — but that doesn’t make it OK.
By wearing a mask, you show that you care about others, particularly our citizens who are the most vulnerable to the virus: those who have a real possibility of becoming catastrophically sick or killed by it. Why would you put your rights above that, particularly for such an easy thing to do?
As community members, we have a responsibility to one another. Please protect others by not infecting them — and cover your face. You simply cannot know if you are actively shedding the virus.
Dr. Nancy Sudak of Duluth is a physician who practices integrative health.