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Area doctors urge people to wear masks in public

Published: Jun. 26, 2020 at 4:00 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) -

Area health officials concerned about a potential resurgence of COVID-19 cases continue urging the public to take precautions. Their most prominent suggestion is for people to wear masks.

“The most effective thing that anyone can do to help protect themselves and their community is to socially distance themselves and wear a mask. It’s that simple,” said ThedaCare Associate Medical Director Dr. Zachary Baeseman.

But despite advice from medical professionals like Dr. Baeseman, not everyone is choosing to wear masks out in public.

“It’s just like drunk driving. You may not get hurt yourself, but you could kill somebody else. Someone who’s older than you are, someone who’s vulnerable,” said Bellin Health’s Emergency Medical Director Dr. Paul Casey

Dr. Casey says wearing a mask is a simple act that’s helpful in preventing the spread of the virus. According to Bellin Health, a person with COVID-19 has a 70 percent chance of transmitting the disease. But when a person with COVID-19 wears a mask that chance drops to five percent, and when everyone involved wears a mask the chance drops to one-point-five percent.

“Essentially preventing the spread of the virus to other people around you, that’s the utility of the mask.,” said Dr. Casey.

“If everyone is wearing a mask we are essentially protecting each other,” said Dr. Baeseman.

The virus can be transmitted through respiratory droplets, masks prevent those droplets from spreading.

“So what a standard mask will do, [it] will knock down those droplets as they are coming out of my mouth so they’re not projected to my neighbor or whoever else might be in my vicinity,” said Dr. Baeseman.

Dr. Baeseman and Dr. Casey have noted misinformation on social media. One rumor is that wearing a cloth mask can make a person sick by inhaling too much carbon dioxide.

“We exhale carbon dioxide as part of the breathing process and then, the molecule goes right out the mask. Whether it’s a cloth mask, a surgical mask, or an N95 mask it goes right out the mask - so that argument lacks scientific basis,” said Dr. Casey.

Dr. Casey believes part of the problem is people are tired of the pandemic.

“Any evidence they can find that says ‘Yeah, I can go back to living as normal and forget about coronavirus’ they can grasp onto that and say ‘Here, it says in this post I don’t need to wear a mask because they’re dangerous,’” said Dr. Casey.

Dr. Baeseman believes the nature of social media and news has also contributed to the problem.

“A number of times now we’ve had great examples of our national media and our electronic technology getting ahead of the science,” said Dr. Baeseman. “And this creates a significant problem with mistrust in our society because, they’re trying to get you good information but if it has to get walked back now ‘Can I trust this or not?’”

Dr. Baeseman urges people to look to their local health officials for the accurate information.

“We have folks that are on the frontlines, myself included, that are actively applying this information daily,” said Dr. Baeseman. “We have every skin in the game to be on top of what’s the latest scientific information, and not be spreading misinformation.”

Both doctors hope people will do their part, recognizing the pandemic as a health issue, not a political one.

“In a pandemic, this would affect anybody - it doesn’t matter what your ideology is,” said Dr. Baeseman.

“It’s very disheartening to see the country so polarized over something so simple as wearing a mask,” said Dr. Casey. “We’re all Americans, this is not a political issue, this is something that’s a public health disaster and we all need to pull together as citizens and do what we can to stop the spread of this virus.”

Copyright 2020 WBAY. All rights reserved.

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