CLEVELAND — Along with grabbing your keys and wallet, grabbing a mask has become part of the daily routines for people all across Northeast Ohio. As the state continues to re-open the economy and relax some protective measures implemented at the start of the pandemic, health leaders continue to encourage public masking.
After initial caution when it came to public masking, the CDC has recommended people wear them while out in public places. While health leaders stress that homemade masks don't offer the same level of protection compared to N-95 masks, studies have shown that they are at least partially effective at limiting the spread of coronavirus. Public masking will play a key role over the coming weeks and months, said Dr. Mark Cameron, an associate professor at Case Western Reserve University.
"What do we have now that is different from a couple months ago before we went on the stay-at-home order to add to our tool kit to protect us and others from spreading infection? One thing is the use of facial coverings or masks," Dr. Cameron said. "We cannot underestimate how important it is to add that extra tool to our protection and protection of others as we start opening up businesses again."
By now, most people in Northeast Ohio are keenly aware of the recommended six feet of social distancing that has been preached by top health officials. Along with those social distancing guidelines that have become commonplace so too have been people wearing homemade masks or facial coverings.
"I don't find it unusual anymore out in the public, going to grocery stores, walking around the neighborhood. If you're running into people, having a mask on is not unusual," Dr. Cameron said. "It appears to be one of the most important tools that we have left to continue to break the transmissions in a state like Ohio where we are really ahead of the curve."
Health experts and researchers said wearing a homemade mask or facial covering protects others from being infected if you happen to be an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19.
"We've learned that a lot of the spread of this virus is by people that have minimal or no symptoms. They don't know they're spreading it. If everyone wears masks, the people that who have it and don't know they are spreading it, they will spread it a lot less," said Dr. Keith Armitage, an infectious disease specialist at University Hospitals. "Even though we're opening up - -people still need to observe social distancing. I'm a big advocate for masks. I think masks cut down on the spread quite a bit."
Dr. Cameron and Dr. Armitage continue to urge people to wear masks as they head out for Memorial Day activities, which mark the unofficial start of summer. However, the CDC recommends that certain people refrain from wearing a mask, including children under the age of two or those that have severe breathing problems.
"People with even average asthma or moderately severe asthma are unlikely to be impacted by a mask. People with emphysema, unless they were in the throes of a severe exacerbation are unlikely to be affected by a mask," Dr. Armitage said. For those who have breathing conditions, Dr. Armitage recommends that they expermiment with different types of material.