Dr. Zane Saul gets it.
Bridgeport Hospital’s chief of infectious diseases realizes wearing a mask is uncomfortable. The face coverings — used to protect people from the contagious respiratory illness COVID-19 — can feel constricting and unwelcome. But, Saul said, people still need to wear them properly.
“You got to wear it, and you got to wear it right,” he said. “You need to cover your nose and your mouth — both.”
Saul is far from the only person getting frustrated that people still haven’t absorbed the message about masks.
Last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo used Twitter to demonstrate proper mask-wearing. It included two photos. In one, Cuomo is wearing his mask properly, with his nose and mouth covered, and in the other, the mask has been pulled down under his chin.
“One is a mask. The other is a chin guard,” Cuomo tweeted with the photos. “No one told you to wear a chin guard. Wear a mask.”
Though that’s sound advice, there are still too many people not covering enough of their faces with their masks, said Alvin Tran, assistant professor of public health in the University of New Haven’s School of Health Sciences.
“I’m starting to see this trend of people of all ages wearing their masks incorrectly,” he said. “There needs to be more education on properly wearing and storing your mask.”
Yes, in addition to wearing masks incorrectly, Tran and Saul said people are not following proper protocol when the masks are off their faces, either.
Saul said the masks aren’t meant to be hung on rearview mirrors, or crumpled on car seats or shoved in purses. Reusable ones should be stored in a clean bag, he said, and disposable ones should be thrown out after use. Storing them otherwise could lead to contamination.
Tran echoed this statement, though he and Saul disagreed on the type of bag in which to store masks. Tran said the World Health Organization recommends storing the masks in a clean, resealable plastic bag (such as a Ziploc). But Saul said a paper bag is better, as condensation can form on plastic bags.
Both said reusable fabric masks should be washed regularly as well, with soap or detergent.
Saul said he’s empathetic toward the mask-averse, but can’t stress enough the importance of proper mask usage.
“There’s more and more evidence coming out that masks are a very effective way to prevent (COVID-19),” he said. “It takes a little getting used to, but once you get used to it, it’s fine.”
One possible positive step forward is that, after months of resisting it, President Donald Trump seems to have to embraced mask wearing. On Monday, Trump tweeted a picture of himself wearing a mask and called the act “patriotic.”
Tran said, though it should have happened sooner, Trump’s support for mask wearing could be helpful in encouraging others to wear face coverings.
“While it is a tad late in our unified efforts to curb the pandemic, I think it will have a substantial impact on the public, especially among his followers,” he said. “As long as the president remains consistent with this messaging — that masks should be worn properly in public spaces along with social distancing — I believe more people will follow suit. It’s time we all take this pandemic seriously.”