Should you wear protective masks in public?

In a perfect world, yes, but health care workers need masks

Mike Baggerman
April 01, 2020 - 12:23 pm
N95 Masks donated to Kaleida Health System. March 23, 2020 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

N95 Masks donated to Kaleida Health System. March 23, 2020 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) – There’s no doubt that if you have gone grocery shopping in the last two weeks you have seen shoppers wearing a mask. The same is true for many of you who have gone out in public even for a walk in your neighborhood.

Are the masks protective and preventative of coronavirus? Health experts believe the jury is still out.

“I think right now, the CDC is looking at this very closely,” Dr. Todd Ellerin, Infectious Disease Specialist on Coronavirus, said. “This is a hot topic for debate. I believe if there were unlimited supply of masks that it would be easier to say yes.”

But Ellerin emphasized that social distancing and the stay-at-home guidance is more important than going out with masks.

A problem is that up to 25 percent people who have coronavirus are asymptomatic, according to the CDC Director.



“That’s another factor that may be saying it’s reasonable to go outside with a mask so you don’t spread the virus from yourself to another person,” Ellerin said. “We think that may be more powerful.”

But the biggest problem regarding the masks is the supply. Hospital staff in the US continue to struggle to receive a new supply of personal protective equipment, including masks, as coronavirus cases continue to climb.

“Is masking a good idea on a population level? I say no because that would mean the end of our supplies,” Dr. Brahm Segal, Roswell Park’s Chief of Infectious Diseases, said. “…To me, that’s not a very viable solution.”

Segal said Roswell Park has a policy where masks are required in the general patient area. He said it maximizes safety for cancer patients.

“The supplies are limiting,” Segal said. “If applied broadly to people in supermarkets, people walking on the streets, we will simply not have enough for our patients or for those delivering health care.”

Segal said they are reusing some supplies, but not before they are sterilized.

The World Health Organization and CDC both recommend that individuals should only wear a mask if they have the virus, coughing or sneezing, or if they are caring for someone who is ill.

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