I listened to a webinar this week where one of the guest speakers was a Professor of Medicine at UCSF, Dr. Monica Ghandi. One of the topics of discussion included effects of societal masking. Remember when this pandemic first started and all the evidence was geared at masking to protect other people? Slogans like, “I wear a mask to protect you, you mask to protect me” were easily found. New evidence is suggesting that wearing a mask will not only protect you from spreading germs, but also offers some protection to the wearer as well. All masks provide some protection acting as a filter. A N95 mask will filter 95% of viral particles, but this is not feasible to wear all day long.
She indicated that if a person wearing a mask was exposed to the virus, new studies indicated they could have a reduced severity of infection. This may attribute to some of the asymptomatic positive diagnoses we have seen.
If masking in public spaces will decrease severity of illness if exposed, we are still creating antibodies. Understandably, asymptomatic persons often have less of a viral load, but will still exhibit an organized response of the immune system, this may be related to wearing a mask consistently. If the overall outcome becomes increasing asymptomatic exposures, ultimately this may lead to increasing herd immunity. Wow, think about this, with societal behavioral modifications, if we really embraced wearing masks at all times around others, we could in effect be promoting herd immunity. With herd immunity, the virus naturally stops spreading because it has no one to spread it to.
We have seen this work in other countries who routinely wear facemasks for various reasons. For example, in Japan, people had already been wearing facemasks. An article found in SFGate.com from July 5, 2020 by Alyssa Pereira, states, “The existing prevalence of Japan’s mask use set the nation on a good trajectory for effectively battling the coronavirus from the outset. And thus far, Japan has been extremely successful at keeping case numbers down. In a nation of nearly 130 million people, less than 1,000 have died from COVID-19.”
Another example is South Korea, the article notes, “South Korea garnered early international praise for containing the coronavirus, mostly by way of ubiquitous mask use. Like in Japan, mask-wearing in South Korea was already common, giving the country a leg up in the fight against the virus. Cases have, for the most part, stayed extremely low.”
Face masks continue to be recommended for all, except when in your home environment. When eating in public, you should observe social distancing rules to decrease potential spread.
One of my favorite statements is from Dr. Fauci, who repeats during recent interviews that, “you need to be humble enough and flexible enough to change things based on what the latest data and evidence are.”
Another topic that keeps coming up is the difference between quarantine and isolation, many people use the terms interchangeably. Let’s review this now. Quarantine refers to the period of time after you are exposed to the virus. It is the time that you are watching for signs and symptoms of the illness and the current recommendation remains at 14 days. It is known that up to 14 days after exposure a person may begin to exhibit symptoms.
Isolation on the other hand refers to the amount of time you isolate from others when you are symptomatic. What is newly being reported is that evidence suggests you are most contagious for 7.7 days. CDC recommendations have adjusted to recommend isolation for 10 days (down from 14 days) accommodating to this new information. The recommendation of 10 days includes a bit of a buffer of two days for the known roughly eight days of contagious period. Dr. Ghandi went on to explain that often times when you have people continue to test positive for longer periods of time, they are shedding the dead virus from nasal secretions.
To summarize, stay the course, wear a mask around anyone who is not immediate housemates, social distance when masking is not possible. Stay Safe!