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5 Reasons You Should Wear a Mask to Slow the Spread of COVID-19

Blue Shield of California’s top physician separates facts from fiction
Terry 3
Dr. Terry Gilliland

We’re seeing a striking increase in COVID-19 infections across the country and in California. That means that many people are not following one of the most effective and simplest precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19—wearing a face covering. Here are my top reasons you should wear a mask, as well as a few misconceptions that I hope to clear up.

  1. It works – recent studies show that wearing a cloth face covering reduces the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth. This helps prevent the possibility of spreading infection, particularly in public settings and when in situations where maintaining 6-foot distance is difficult.
  2. It’s the smart thing to do – even if you’re feeling great, studies show that the two-day period prior to feeling symptoms are when you could spread the virus and not know it. That is, you could infect someone else—a vulnerable friend or family member, an essential worker, or someone who is otherwise healthy, but happens to have a severe reaction to the virus. One study found that up to 45 percent of COVID-19 infections may be asymptomatic. So regardless of whether you are asymptomatic, wearing a mask protects others.
  3. It reinforces positive habits – wearing a mask when you are out in public keeps you from touching your face, which is something we all do constantly and unconsciously, and is a potential source of infection. Making a habit of wearing a mask and then washing your hands after removing your face covering is an excellent way to reduce your chances of catching the virus.
  4. It can help us all get back to a new normal – the virus is not going away, so we all have to adapt. Wearing a face covering – in conjunction with social distancing - is the best way for us to begin to go about our lives without causing an upswing in infections.
  5. It save lives – more than 130,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States, making it more deadly than the flu and diabetes. If we don’t do everything we can to slow the spread, it’s on track to be a top cause of death this year.

Top 3 myths

  1. It causes carbon dioxide poisoning – wearing a face covering for short periods of time is safe for most people. Children under the age of 2 and people with breathing problems or those who can’t take the mask off themselves should not wear a mask. If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor.
  2. It has to be medical-grade to be effective – wearing a cloth face covering has been proven to be an effective barrier to reducing the spread of droplets if you are infected.
  3. It will completely protect from infection – wearing a mask does not protect you from infection, but it does help reduce the chances of you infecting others.

We’re all in this together, so it’s important that everyone who can wear a face covering do so for them to most effective. It’s also vital that we continue to practice social distancing, proper hand washing and other recommendations to protect yourself and others.

Terry Gilliland, M.D.

Executive Vice President, Healthcare Quality and Affordability