Simple COVID-19 Strategies: Wear a Mask
By Mark Dougherty, MD, Lexington Infectious Disease Consultants
Hello. I am an Infectious Disease physician and hospital epidemiologist at Baptist Health Lexington with 32 years experience. Additionally, I am the managing partner in our 11 doctor Infectious Disease group. Our group practices at Baptist Health Lexington, St. Joseph's Hospital, St Joseph's East Hospital, Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital, Continuing Care Hospital, and UK Samaritan Hospital. I have served on the Clinical Affairs Committee of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
Here are some of my thoughts on how we emerge from this quagmire.
We have suffered an enormous toll physically, emotionally, and economically during this pandemic. Most health authorities claim that we will be afflicted with SARS CoV2 (COVID-19) until we achieve an effective vaccine. A common sense approach tells me otherwise.
Often we are blind to the simplest, cheapest, and most effective solution to a problem staring us in the face.
The solution to transmission of SARS CoV2 is shockingly simple: everyone mask in enclosed spaces (with at least 95% compliance), cleanse hands frequently, stay six feet or more apart in open spaces (or wear a mask if closer). This will likely have the same effect as vaccinating more than 95% of the population with an effective vaccine. Very simple, very cheap. The feeble don’t die. The R naught (Ro) or number of others that one person infects will drop to far less than one and the pandemic will fade. Why did the pandemic fade in China? Because their totalitarian government is superior? No - look at the pictures. They are all masked!
I was incredibly disturbed this weekend when I shopped at two hardware stores and found plexiglass barriers, but almost no employees masked. There is widespread misunderstanding of the purpose of the mask. At Baptist Health Lexington we wear masks to prevent spread to patients, not to just protect ourselves (just as we take the influenza vaccine to protect our patients). This has resulted in no transmission among health care workers (HCWs) and no transmission to patients. Baptist Health Lexington is now the safest place to be other than a bunker in your own home.
I realize that many will say they will not or cannot wear a mask, or that there are not enough masks. I’m not referring to a N95 mask, just a surgical mask. If you can only get two, cycle them and reuse. If you can’t get a surgical mask, get a face shield. Face shields are manufactured in the US and manufacturing can be rapidly scaled up. If no face shield, then a cloth face mask or a bandana. No excuses. Surely a mask/face shield is preferable to our current apocalyptic situation. In retrospect, a simple solution could have prevented this catastrophe. This should be implemented immediately.
Common sense dictates that we open up the economy and society with masking/face shields and hand hygiene. Simple. Effective. Cheap. Available. Common sense.
Our practice, Lexington Infectious Disease Consultants has provided updated comprehensive educational resources regarding SARS CoV2. See LEXIDC.com.
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