Why the Mask?
I am saddened by the “politicizing” of the issue. There is actually reasonable, though not perfect science behind the suggestion. With the disclaimer that we are learning more every day, what we do know is that there are likely about one in five who have the coronavirus infection and have NO SYMPTOMS. Further, those of us that do get symptoms, are likely shedding the virus up to 48 hours before we get sick. This means these people are going through their day and potentially – through talking, sneezing, coughing, etc. – spreading this virus. We further know that there are those amongst us that are MUCH more vulnerable to this infection. Those who are over 65, those with chronic medical conditions, and those with impaired immunities. Yes, we strongly recommend those in these groups to restrict their interaction with the outside world, however some are unable to do so. Many are isolated and need groceries, some still need to work, and some are lonely. The mask, while not perfect, mostly prevents the spread from you (the potential host) to those around you. The number one way to get infected is contact with someone carrying the virus.
Why do I wear a mask personally? This is my support of those around me that are more vulnerable. I would be very sad to learn that I unwittingly spread this virus to someone who got really sick.
Sure, the science is not conclusive. However, as a primary care physician, I support it. It has also become something of a symbol for me. It reminds me that I have a “social contract” with the rest of the community about doing my part to support social distancing. It reminds me to not touch my face, to maintain six feet of distance from others, and to not go out if I am not feeling well. I want to protect the more vulnerable amongst us.
Masks are not perfect and will not completely stop the spread of a virus from an asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic person. But they might reduce the possibility even a fraction. And this impact multiplied by thousand, if not millions of people, can save lives.