The great mask debate: respiratory therapist addresses dilemma
Mary Beth Sallee
Jobe Publishing, Inc.
Over the past two weeks, much debate has occurred in regards to Governor Andy Beshear’s executive order mandating that masks be worn in public.
One of the most notorious topics of discussion revolves around whether or not masks can actually help prevent or slow the spread of COVID-19.
Scott Meredith is a Respiratory Therapy Supervisor at The Medical Center Caverna. With over 32 years of experience as a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RTT), Scott stated that he agrees with the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Face coverings may help prevent those who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others.
“The CDC states the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person, typically through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, or talking,” Scott said. “Masks act as a simple barrier to help prevent airborne respiratory droplets, which could contain the virus, from being spread from person to person.”
Many have questioned why the CDC changed its original statement regarding the wearing of masks. At the beginning of the pandemic, the CDC suggested that only those in the health care industry or those caring for sick individuals wear a mask. By April, the CDC recommended that all individuals wear a mask in public when social distancing is not an option. Scott stated that with COVID-19 being caused by a new virus, scientists are continually researching and learning more about the virus every day.
“The more you learn, the more you know, and so recommendations are bound to change,” Scott explained. “In the beginning, it was believed that the virus could only be spread by people who showed symptoms of the illness. Now evidence, after further study, has shown the virus can also be spread by people who have the virus but show no symptoms of illness.”
Scott also addressed the false information that is circulating on social media, in particular, that wearing a mask reduces oxygen levels and can make a person sicker.
“That’s a myth,” Scott said. “Masks can be uncomfortable, but studies show there is no significant change in oxygen levels when wearing a mask. I’d also add there is no evidence that wearing a mask causes CO2 (carbon dioxide) intoxication, which I’ve also heard.”
“There is so much misinformation on social media and elsewhere out there that I can understand why some are against wearing masks,” Scott added. “I would ask those people to be careful where you get your information from and don’t believe everything you read or hear. Do your own research and rely on reputable scientific and health care resources.”
There is also much debate regarding the wearing of masks by those with pre-existing health conditions.
“The only reason I could see a person not being able to use a mask would be a severe burn to their face,” Scott said. “However, there are people with very severe health problems like COPD and/or other diseases that make it already difficult to breath that would have a problem wearing a mask. For those people that have pre-existing health issues, it would probably be a better idea to practice social distancing and stay home if at all possible.”
“I would encourage people to follow the CDC recommendations, which is to wear cloth face coverings when in public and you are unable to social distance at least six feet apart,” Scott continued. “The surgical/procedure masks are good if you want to purchase them.”
Despite the differing of opinions among individuals, Scott said it’s important to remember that everyone must stand together in the fight against COVID-19.
“We are all in this together,” Scott said. “And with each individual doing his or her part, we can get through the other side of this pandemic more quickly with fewer lives lost…Please wear a mask and practice social distancing.”