How Long Will We Need to Wear Masks?

"Masks will be here to stay" says one area doctor

Tom Puckett
May 18, 2020 - 4:00 am
Masks

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Buffalo, NY (WBEN) We've been told to stay at least six feet apart from each other since the coronavirus outbreak, and we've also been told to wear masks in public. How long will that mandate continue?

Dr. Joseph Chow of WNY Immediate Care says when the numbers of the virus come down to acceptable levels, he believes the mask requirement will go away. "A lot of things need to go along with that, phases, testing, and goals like decreasing hospitalizations and admissions need to be met," says Chow, who says we'll be wearing masks for the short-term future. He says it will be at least six weeks before there's any talk of lifting that requirement. 

Chow believes even if the coronavirus disappears, masks won't. "Keep in mind, the vaccine may not come out until next year, and another thing is flu season will be coming this fall. I think we'll start to see people wearing masks more, not only for COVID, but for other things like flu. So, I think masks will be here to stay," notes Chow. "Depending on what's out there, we certainly know there are certain things that are going to come. COVID is still here, flu comes every year. I think this is something where we would find years ago someone wearing a mask would be odd and wonder what's going on. I think moving forward, masks will become more of the fabric of our everyday lives, especially during illnesses, so they're going to be more familiar and people will need to understand what's going on."

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Chow says it's up to local health officials to decide when for sure masks won't required in public anymore. 

UB's Dr. Tom Russo says facemasks are going to be the backbone of the public health measures to keep the coronavirus under control as New York makes effort to reopen the state. "Though not everyone's going to be excited to hear this, I think we're going to be wearing masks in situations where we're close to other people until a vaccine is available," predicts Russo.

Russo says there is some talk of the White House's warp speed effort to come up with a vaccine by the end of the year. "I think for that to happen, everything's going to have to go perfectly. We're testing a lot of vaccines in parallel now. We need at least one or two of them to go forward and be efficacious and we can produce a large scale and immunize the number of individuals we need in this country," says Russo.

Russo adds masks need to be in conjunction with social distancing. "Maska are not perfect, and people do not always wear them properly, so if you can maintain that six foot zone, that's desirable. Obviously, hand hygiene is another part, and you'll want to wash your hands whenever you touch a surface that might be potentially contaminated," adds Russo. 

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