5 On Your Side

Mask habits have value beyond COVID crisis

Posted December 16, 2020 10:00 a.m. EST
Updated December 16, 2020 7:30 p.m. EST

It’s a great debate for some: masks on or not.

"Wearing a mask over our mouth and nose is the best thing we can do to stop the spread of this virus," Gov. Roy Cooper has said repeatedly this year.

Science shows masks help stop the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses. They believe widespread mask use is one reason that flu cases are down globally year-to-year.

Some experts say the evidence could, and should, prompt a lasting shift in mask wearing.

"Really throughout Asia, they’ve been touting that for years," said Dr. John Sanders, chief of infectious disease at Wake Forest Baptist Health. "You hit cold and flu season, and any runny nose, any sniffle, the social responsibility is on you to put on a mask to try to keep the rest of the rest of us from getting sick."

"Why haven’t we done this from the beginning? Whenever you’re sick, wear a mask?" WRAL’s Monica Laliberte wondered.

"It is my fault. I haven’t really liked masks," joked Sanders, citing complaints that many have had. "They dry out my eyes. They dry out my skin, uh, and people can’t see me smile."

No one likes to wear a mask.

But with COVID, new habits of hand sanitizer, hand washing, distance and masks may be here to stay.

Sanders says the Southern hemisphere is evidence that the combination, with masks, works.

"As they went through the flu season this year, but used masks more, they had one of the lowest flu seasons on record," said Sanders. "Even after we get these vaccines, I think we’re going to be much more willing and much more encouraging of people wearing masks when they get colds and flus, or when they’re going to be around somebody with colds and flus, just as a general precaution."

There’s optimism that, because of masks, scientists believe that the flu won’t explode across the United States this year as it has in other years. So far, that’s the case.

It’s another change brought on by the pandemic.

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