As COVID-19 cases rise, should masks be worn in public?

President Donald Trump said in a Thursday briefing the White House will be recommending Americans wear face coverings to help curb the spread of the Coronavirus. Municipal leaders are following suit, the city of Laredo is requiring its residents to cover their nose and mouths when entering public places or face a thousand dollar fine.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, health care leaders advised the public to refrain from purchasing masks and gloves, needed for front line workers experiencing medical supply shortages nationwide. Dr. Pradeep Kumar said the decision was made in large part to make sure health care workers had supplies needed.

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“You have to weigh these recommendations in connection with the numbers that continue to go up,” Dr. Kumar said. “it is not time to let down your guard, it is not time to loosen restrictions. It's kind of time to be a little bit more conservative and consider that any person that you see out there, that you don’t spend time with all the time is a potentially infected person.”

Dr. Kumar explained over video chat, there isn’t any data yet that shows wearing a mask will prevent someone from contracting the virus but it does add an extra layer of protection.

“Two things you can do by wearing a mask, you can be an asymptomatic carrier and you are protecting other people by the random cough that comes out so you are not spreading your virus anywhere else,” said Dr. Kumar. “You can also limit the area in which you suck into your lungs so it’s not coming from everywhere, you do reduce your risks marginally but it is a risk reduction.” 

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As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise that risk increases, essential businesses like HEB are taking extra steps to limit the amount of shoppers and enforce social distancing. Employees are wearing protective gear and customers are beginning to take precautionary measures.

"About a week ago, I didn’t wear gloves when I went into the grocery store. I used the alcohol-based and scrubbed on my hands, now I am wearing gloves,” Dr. Kumar said. 

Dr. Kumar adds if a person has a handkerchief or supplies at home it’s reasonable to use them in public spaces. But do not panic buy online and create a medical supply shortage for those who need it the most. The best form of protection from the virus is to stay at home.

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“These are layers of protection right so it’s being safe and the safest thing you can do is not expose yourself and expose others,” said Dr. Kumar.


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