July 13, 2020
Last week, a city of Tuscaloosa ordinance took effect requiring people to wear face masks or face coverings in public.
There are some exceptions. Children under the age of 2 are not required to wear masks. Face coverings are also not required when people are eating or drinking, if they have health conditions that make breathing difficult, or if they are unable to remove face coverings without assistance.
The intent of the ordinance is to help fight the spread of Covid-19 in our community. Scientific studies show that masks can limit the spread of the virus, and the more people wearing masks, the better.
Covid-19 is spread primarily through respiratory droplets. When someone coughs, sneezes, talks, laughs or even sings, respiratory droplets can travel through the air and onto another person.
Face masks or coverings, when worn over the mouth and nose, help reduce the spray of respiratory droplets. Masks function as a barrier, helping to prevent respiratory droplets from traveling through the air from one person, who might be infected with Covid-19, to another.
While the primary benefit of masks is to keep people with Covid-19 from spreading the virus to others, you will still benefit from wearing a mask, even if you don’t have the virus. In addition, the virus can be spread by people who don’t have symptoms and, therefore, might not know they are infected. That’s why it is important for everyone to wear face masks or coverings in public.
States that have mandated masks in public spaces have seen a slowing of Covid-19 rates. A recent study published in Health Affairs compared the virus transmission rate before and after mask mandates in 15 states and the District of Columbia and found that requiring masks led to a slowdown in the daily Covid-19 growth rate, which became more apparent over time.
At University Medical Center, we have seen the effectiveness of face masks. All of our health-care workers are required to wear masks, and we have required our patients to do the same. As we have cared for patients throughout this pandemic, we have had great success in preventing any spread to our patients and employees. In fact, we have not been able to trace a single case to direct contact in UMC.
Wearing face masks and coverings in public, and engaging in social distancing and frequent handwashing, are proven risk mitigation strategies to limit the spread of the virus and help keep Covid-19 rates down in our community.
The College of Community Health Sciences operates University Medical Center