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Why masking is a must: Addressing common reasons for non-masking

Lankenau Medical Center May 29, 2020 General Wellness
As we continue to look toward what life with COVID-19 will look like, one thing that appears to be part of our daily lives for the foreseeable future is masking. Whether you’re at work, out for a run or getting groceries, masks will be a must-have. 

While this is a new reality for us all, many people are struggling with the idea of wearing a mask to perform daily activities and questioning whether or not it’s a necessary precaution. 

“Wearing a mask is a change to daily life and that comes with some resistance,” says Lawrence J. Livornese, Jr., MD, Chairman of the Department of Medicine and infectious disease specialist at Main Line Health. “But as we continue to navigate this global public health crisis, wearing a mask is one of the best ways that we can protect each other, and help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”

Below, Dr. Livornese addresses some of the most common reasons people are reluctant to wear a mask.

Wearing a mask is uncomfortable.

Wearing a mask can be uncomfortable, but it’s no excuse not to wear one. Many aspects of health care can cause us discomfort or a temporary inconvenience (think: joint replacement, mammograms…even having blood drawn!) but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go through with them.

One thing that could be causing you extra discomfort is the material or fit of your mask. Look for cotton masks to allow for breathability, and make sure it fits over your nose and mouth and loops snugly behind your ears. A mask that is too big or too small may add to your discomfort. 

The virus isn’t a real threat.

If you don’t know anyone who has contracted COVID-19 or you live in an area that hasn’t had a high number of cases or hospitalizations, it might seem like the virus isn’t a serious threat. But that can change quickly and, for those of us living in the northeastern region of the United States, that’s simply not the case.

“While we have continued to see the number of cases in our region trend downward, there is still a very real risk for this virus to spread,” explains Dr. Livornese. “With nearly 100,00 lives claimed in the United States alone, COVID-19 remains an ongoing public health issue and needs to be treated seriously.”

I don’t have coronavirus.

Correction: You don’t think you have coronavirus. While the coronavirus can cause severe symptoms and require hospitalization, it can also take hold in ‘silent spreaders’—people who have the coronavirus and:

  • Do not exhibit symptoms
  • Exhibit very mild symptoms
  • Do not yet know it. It appears that people are most contagious in the 48 hours before they actually exhibit symptoms

While there’s no way to tell just how many ‘silent spreaders’ there are, play it safe and assume that you could still be a carrier—even if you don’t know it.

Wearing a mask isn’t about how it looks or makes you feel; it’s about keeping each other safe!

I don’t like how the mask looks.

Wearing a mask isn’t about how it looks or makes you feel; it’s about keeping each other safe! Everyone should be wearing a mask so you’re not alone in how you look, either.

I’m fine wearing a mask to the grocery store, but I can’t wear it when I’m exercising outside. It’s uncomfortable and makes it difficult to breathe.

If you choose to exercise outside around others, you still need to wear a mask. This is especially important as the weather gets warmer and trails and parks begin to see more crowds.

If you really don’t want to wear a mask, you’ll need to adjust your workout routine. Instead of heading outdoors, run on a treadmill at home or away from others. If you don’t have the option to work out inside, alter your schedule so that you’re hitting the trails at off-hours when crowds are at a minimum. Even then, you should always have your mask with you in case you do come in contact with others

The guidance keeps changing! I can’t keep up.

COVID-19 is a new strain of the coronavirus that took hold in the United States pretty quickly. Researchers and health care providers were forced to adapt quickly, and guidance has evolved along the way as we continue to learn more about this virus. Still, the guidance about masking hasn’t changed drastically.

“Originally, universal masking was not something recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” acknowledges Dr. Livornese. “But as we learned more about this disease and asymptomatic carriers, the CDC updated its guidelines to recommend universal masking.”

As states and businesses start to gradually reopen in the wake of our COVID-19 surge, masking will continue to be a part of everyday life for the foreseeable future. 

Learn more about Main Line Health's COVID-19 response, including new safety measures, appointment information and more.

Main Line Health serves patients at hospitals and health centers throughout the western suburbs of Philadelphia. To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.