• September 30, 2020

#CoronaConfusion: U.S., WHO, Others Not Agreeing on the use of Mask

#CoronaConfusion: The world seems not only decimated by the coronavirus pandemic but the ‘demon’ has added confusion to one its characteristics. Confusion over: if mask prevents its spread or not, which mask is right, if chloroquine works, if lockdown is effective, if lockdown should be continued, discontinued or extended..? – confusion about facial mask trends now.

The United States is now urging people to wear face masks when they go outside as growing evidence suggests that even a simple cloth mask can be an effective tool against the coronavirus if it is used correctly, according to health experts.

Austria requires shoppers to wear basic face masks in supermarkets in a bid to slow the still-too-rapid spread of the coronavirus.

The US is in the eye of the mask confusion. Its Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reversed its old stance on face masks last week – telling its citizens they should now wear one when they go outside.

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The puzzlement stems from a continuing global argument as to how the virus is spread through the air. An ancillary to that is which masks are most effective – between the N95 respirator and surgical masks favoured by medical personnel or the more ordinary dust masks and cloth face coverings.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has consistently maintained that masks are only needed by people displaying COVID-19 symptoms such as coughing and sneezing. Others are those starting to feel sick and “pre-symptomatic” or caring for the sick whilst emphasising that masks must be disposed of properly.

Dale Fisher, an infectious disease physician and chair of the WHO Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network says the misuse of mask may ricochet.

He postulates that many mask-wearers may feel a “false sense of security” and can easily end up transferring any virus droplets on the surface of their mask onto their hands or the surfaces in their home when they take off the mask.

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He corroborated his position: “If you wear a mask in the community, the next thing you realise it’s on the table beside you or it will be under your chin when you answer the phone. Distancing and washing these are the ways to stop [the virus] not (to) wear a mask all the time”.

On the contrary, Jason Wang, a physician and director of Center for Policy, Outcomes and Prevention at Stanford University, said growing evidence about the nature of COVID-19, suggests masks may be essential at all times when in social settings.

Wearing mask in public is non-negotiable in some countries – no person in the Chinese city of Wuhan where the outbreak began late last year was allowed onto the street without one amid a strictly-enforced quarantine. In Singapore, they distribute mask to each household.-

Meanwhile, a recent study in the revered New England Journal of Medicine showed that SARS-CoV-2 particles can linger for as long as three hours after they are transmitted.

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Wang strengthened this train of thought further: “What that means is if it stays in the air for more than three hours and if someone coughs with SARS-CoV-2, you can get exposed. This is nothing to be adamant about this is science. When that happens basically you have to rethink the transmission of this virus”.

When the world is confronted with a virus this sly and untameable, wisdom demands we stay away from it as far as possible.

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Femi Oshin

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