Masks could be the 'new normal' and you must know these dos and don'ts when using them, says US medical body
A mask is not always comfortable but for the foreseeable future, the benefits outweigh the discomfort, the Association of American Medical Colleges has said
One of the most heated topics in recent times has been masks. While public health experts urged Americans to wear them, President Donald Trump has dismissed their importance in the past. Amid the noise, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) released simple guidelines that could help clear some concerns and misinformation surrounding face coverings.
"A mask is not always comfortable and has not been a part of everyday life in the US, but for the foreseeable future, the benefits outweigh the discomfort. In the absence of national policy, we are asking that state and local governments, and all Americans, join us in this effort," the AAMC, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, said in their guidelines.
"These guidelines are meant to provide everyone around the country with a unified approach to wearing face masks and correct the often-conflicting messaging and misinformation out there," Dr Atul Grover, executive director of AAMC Research and Action Institute, said in a statement. "Until we develop a vaccine and better therapeutics, prevention is the key to reducing the impact of this pandemic. The quicker we make face coverings our ‘new normal,’ the faster we can gain control over Covid-19."
Citing an example of how masks help, the scientific body quoted a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study. According to it, none of the 139 customers contracted the infection from hairstylists who were Covid-19 positive. The probable reason: clients and employees wore face coverings.
The dos and don'ts of wearing masks
Before stepping out, pick up a mask along with a wallet, keys and phone. In addition to putting it on, experts remind people to ensure that there is no gap around the nose and chin. Further, cloth masks should be made of at least two layers and must be washed regularly.
"Loosely folded face coverings and bandana-style coverings are better than no coverings; however, they still allow for the smallest aerosolized respiratory droplets to be dispersed," they wrote in their guidelines. Grover told CNN that face masks protect everyone — you and the other person. "If you're wearing it and the people around you are wearing it, we've seen that transmission (of the coronavirus) probably drops in the 90% plus range, which is pretty good odds," he said.
As for the don'ts, AAMC said, users should avoid touching the front of the masks, wearing coverings under the nose and sharing them with others.
What should you do indoors?
Superspreading events are more likely indoors, data suggests. Choir practices, corporate conferences and other church events are some examples. People should consider wearing face coverings in spaces such as elevators, restaurants, cars, buses and airplanes. If users have a visitor, the agency recommends everyone aged two and above to mask up. While sharing a cab with others, the windows should be rolled down, AAMC said. "All businesses open to the public, no matter how limited, should insist that all customers wear masks while indoors," the guidelines stated.
What about outdoor spaces?
While the risk outdoors is relatively lower, experts recommend face coverings even when briefly passing by others, such as running or walking by someone on the sidewalk. It applies to people aged two and above.
These protective coverings are, however, unnecessary outside if users can maintain a distance of six feet from others. As for those who worry that breathing in expelled air causes carbon dioxide poisoning, Grover told CNN: "You can find videos of plenty of physicians and nurses and respiratory techs that are putting on 1, 2, 3, 4 — or even 10 — masks [who are] exercising, talking and showing that their pulse oximetry is not reading any decrease. There haven't been any reports of anyone's life being in danger from wearing a mask," he stressed.
"Please join health care leaders in encouraging your family, friends, and community to wear a face-covering every time they come within six feet of someone outside their household," the guidelines read.