Since early October, COVID-19 cases have started to increase significantly in Tennessee, putting lives at risk and stressing health care capacity.
But there’s something easy all of us can do to reverse that trend: wear a facemask.
Evidence shows coronavirus spread is slower in areas where masking is common, and experts say if everyone commits to wearing a mask Tennessee can reduce its level of new cases.
As COVID-19 continues to spread in our community and fill beds at Regional One Health and other hospitals, we encourage everyone to be part of the solution – not part of the problem.
Health experts say the best way to protect yourself and others is to follow the easy safety steps they have been promoting for months: Wear a facemask that covers your nose and mouth, wash your hands frequently, avoid large gatherings and stay 6 feet from others when in public.
The Tennessee Hospital Association recently launched the “Wearing is Caring” campaign to remind Tennesseans of these important steps as cooler weather and the holiday season approach.
Regional One Health Chief Medical Officer Martin Croce, MD said Regional One Health fully supports THA’s message and encourages everyone in the community to step up to do their part.
“At Regional One Health, our goal is to help our community rebound from these stressful times, keep our community healthy and safe and be available when needed,” Dr. Croce said. “We must get back to wearing a mask, avoiding large gatherings and staying 6 feet apart. Doing so protects the ones we love most, our first responders and our community’s health care workers.”
Studies show that in parts of Tennessee where mask use is widespread, COVID-19 cases are not rising as fast.
Recent data shows how important it is to overcome “COVID fatigue” and remain vigilant about preventing the spread. Since early October, hospitalizations are up over 50 percent statewide, and almost every region is seeing rising numbers of infections.
So far, hospitals in our community have not experienced a surge that exceeded capacity, but the unprecedented increase of new cases puts the ground we have gained at risk.
The good news is, there is something easy everybody can do to reverse that trend: wear a mask. Evidence is clear that this simple act helps reduce the spread of COVID-19.
According to a Vanderbilt University Medical Center study, the recent increase in cases has been more significant in parts of Tennessee that do not have facemask requirements. On the other hand, areas where masking is widespread are not seeing major increases in virus cases.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation warns Tennessee will add 20,000 coronavirus cases by the end of the year, which would stress the health care system. However, experts say that number can be reduced if everyone commits to wearing a mask when out in public.
Despite the strong evidence that masks help inhibit the spread of coronavirus, not enough people are taking this simple step to take care of themselves, their loved ones and their communities. Right now, studies show only 60 percent of people statewide regularly wear a mask, which is not nearly enough to flatten the curve.
A Tennessee Hospital Association study shows the number one reason Tennesseans don’t wear a mask is because they don’t believe it is an effective way to control the spread of the virus.
“It’s up to each of us to keep our loved ones and others out of the hospital. It’s up to us to keep our businesses open and our children in school,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Martin Croce said. “It requires all of us to accomplish any of these goals, and it requires all of us to protect each other.”
This is simply untrue. According to the Centers for Disease Control, a cloth mask traps droplets that are released when you talk, cough or sneeze. Since these droplets are responsible for spreading COVID-19, containing them with a mask is an effective way to control the spread.
There is no evidence that wearing a mask, including an N95, is harmful to a healthy individual. It does not deprive the wearer of oxygen or cause them to become infected.
Masks should be worn over your nose and mouth anytime you are around people outside of your immediate household. This should continue until a coronavirus vaccine is widely available.
If you’re wearing a mask, you’re helping your community in a number of ways:
- Protecting vulnerable populations like elderly grandparents.
- Protecting people of all ages, from babies to seniors, who have chronic conditions.
- Protecting those who help keep us safe, like firefighters, paramedics, police officers and health care workers.
- Ensuring hospitals and other health care facilities have the capacity to treat COVID-19 patients and patients with other serious medical conditions and emergencies.
- Keeping our schools and businesses open, which protects our economy and jobs.
Dr. Croce said for healthy individuals, there’s no good reason not to wear a mask.
“It’s up to each of us to keep our loved ones and others out of the hospital. It’s up to us to keep our businesses open and our children in school,” he said. “It requires all of us to accomplish any of these goals, and it requires all of us to protect each other.”