Experts disagree on how useful masks would be, the message they send

Posted at 4:24 PM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-03 19:27:44-04

Since the start of the coronavirus, political leaders and medical experts increasingly told the public to avoid large gatherings, keep at least six feet from others, and wash hands as often as possible.

On Friday, during the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing, President Trump announced the Centers for Disease Control is recommending that the public wear cloth coverings over their mouth when in public as part of the effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Face masks were not a large part of the discussion until more recently, with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo suggesting that masks would help.

Some doctors stared thinking face coverings might help when reports surfaced in some hospitals that COVID-19 might be spreading through the air. In that case, masks might help, but doctors tell News 5 they still aren’t sure that’s actually happening.

“I completely understand the confusion,” said Case Western Reserve University Immunologist Dr. Mark Cameron. “I’ve been following this and I’m somewhat confused myself.”

Dr. Cameron studies these kinds of outbreaks and diseases and was part of the research response to the SARS outbreak in Toronto in 2003.

Dr. Cameron says the mixed messages from the fact that there isn’t enough medical knowledge about the coronavirus to know for sure if masks would help stop the spread.

“The idea of a face-covering providing additional protection, that may be, but the science doesn’t support it,” said Dr. Cameron.

He says it probably wouldn’t hurt, but there is a downside.

First, medical masks on people at the park, in the grocery store, or on the street is a mask that medical professionals don’t have. Second, masks can give the public a sense of false safety from the coronavirus.

“That can breakdown the social distancing and other Stay At Home measures,” that are working right now, said Dr. Cameron.

All the conversation about the masks has made Rikki Metzler’s Friday a busy one.

“This is just the small area I’ve got going on right now,” said Metzler over Facebook Messenger.

She posted in the Lakewood Community page Friday morning that she is sewing cloth masks out of material she had lying around.

By lunch, she had at least 40 requests and has since stopped taking new orders to make sure she has enough material to make what she's committed to so far.

“It’s hard to try to decide, do I prioritize the people who have elderly parents or healthcare workers,” said Metzler.

It could be a full day’s work for a full-time student and bartender unable to be either of those things right now.

“They’re going really quick so I’m just starting up a little shop in my attic and making as many as I can as quickly as I can,” said Metzler.

Experts say even if you start wearing a mask, don’t stop obeying Stay At Home orders or social distancing guidelines.