Editor’s note: This story is being provided for free as a public service during the COVID-19 outbreak. Please consider supporting our local journalists in Nevada by subscribing to the Reno Gazette Journal. This is the third in a series of columns by Dr. Eric Nielsen. Nielsen has worked for 16 years inside emergency rooms. A Reno native and graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno Medical School, he works in the same hospital where he was born.
Nielsen is part of the Northern Nevada Emergency Physicians group, which staffs Renown Health hospitals. The group of 65 doctors continues to be on the front lines of the battle against the coronavirus.
Let’s talk about masks…
As we enter our next phase of COVID-19 management in Northern Nevada there’s been a lot of talk about wearing masks in public.
For the last several generations in America, we’ve never had to collectively consider wearing masks. During the Spanish influenza pandemic over 100 years ago, masks were commonplace all across the United States. So were anti-mask protests, as well as second and third surges of a virus certain communities could not contain.
Other countries have clearly done a better job containing the spread of COVID-19 than the United States.
South Korea and Singapore have consistently had their citizens wear masks in public. It’s more culturally acceptable there and they don’t have the same civil liberties that we enjoy and cherish. Yet when you look at the data, their lives and economies have not been crushed nearly as bad as ours have.
This virus does not discriminate. It’s deadly, patient, and isn’t going anywhere soon. Almost 90,000 Americans have died so far, let’s all acknowledge that we can do better.
READ MORE FROM DR. NIELSEN:
His first column: ‘This isn’t just our battle, it’s everyone’s’
And his second column: ‘We won the battle, now let’s win the war’
Can masks completely stop the spread of the virus? The resounding answer is no. Can I provide some common sense advice from the frontlines? The simple answer is yes.
In the emergency department, we are caring for COVID-19 patients on a regular basis. We are wearing N95 masks and gloves and are probably washing our hands a hundred times a day. We are in direct contact with these patients everyday and our diligence has not lead to an outbreak within our hospital staff or spread to our patients.
How do we translate that into day-to-day life? There is no shortage of homemade, donated, or simple bandanna masks. Obviously everyone cannot obtain or wear N95 masks 24 hours a day.
The goal is to limit its spread in larger gatherings and in situations in which more than 10 people are involved. The frustrating thing is, we simply don’t know who could be a mild case or asymptomatic spreader of the disease.
I cannot tell you to what level a homemade mask will protect you or others. It’s also common sense that it will limit the spread from mildly infected spreaders of the virus and offer you more protection than none at all.
The question is whether or not we are all going to buy into the concept.
I do not support mandates or legal requirements to wear masks. Looking around the country, those mandates simply do not work. Let’s all agree together as a community to do this for the safety and health of our citizens and it’s economy. Let’s also be an example of how to maintain our civil liberties, social lives, and economies the American way.
During the COVID-19 crisis, that means working together in a time of crisis, making sacrifices, and wearing our masks.
It looks goofy, it’s uncomfortable and it’s an inconvenience. This shouldn’t have turned into a red versus blue issue — it’s simply a red, white and blue civic duty for the health and safety of all Americans.
No one wants the disease to spread uncontrolled, everyone wants the economy to get humming again. Let’s make wearing a mask in public a statement that you care about your community and it’s economy more than just yourself.
If the disease spreads like a brushfire, workers will have to stay home, more patients will fill up the hospitals, and fewer customers will be confident to shop. We are going to start opening things up more and more every day. As we do that let’s be diligent about wearing masks in public, washing hands consistently, and not gathering inappropriately.
If we can do that we’ll have a better chance of keeping both our economy and it’s citizens healthy and thriving.
Again, share if you care and please follow the CDC guidelines on homemade masks.
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