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'When Will We Be Able to Stop Wearing Masks?'

masks illustration
By Elizabeth Hanes, BSN, RNOctober 16, 2020

Lately, I spend half my time backtracking to the car because I forgot to put my mask on before I headed toward the store entrance. Like a lot of people, I’m wondering: When will we be able to stop wearing masks?

Most experts say: Not for the foreseeable future.

By now you know that wearing a mask helps prevent germs like SARS-CoV-2 from getting breathed into the environment -- where they can be inhaled by others. Masks also offer some protection against breathing in another person’s germs. In a nutshell, mask-wearing reduces transmission of this virus.

That being the case, it seems like it would make sense to say we can all stop wearing masks when we don’t have to worry about spreading this virus anymore. So in theory, it seems we might be able to stop with the masks if one of these three things happen:

  • There’s an effective vaccine available (and it’s being utilized widely enough to drastically reduce the number of COVID-19 cases).
  • We achieve “herd immunity” to COVID-19.
  • We all become naturally immune to the virus.

The problem is that we don’t know if or when any of these things might happen.

Some experts predict this virus will continue to infect people at varying rates for at least the next 5 years. These models show COVID-19 cases continuing to rise and fall even after a vaccine is developed. That tells us it will be important to continue wearing masks to prevent cases from spiking in the future.

Wearing a mask might be a nuisance, but it is a crucial strategy for stopping this virus from spreading. Always wear a mask in public. Buy one that fits well, feels comfortable, and looks as fashionable as you want to be. And then wear it every time you go out.

The novel coronavirus is here to stay. Your face mask might be, too.



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