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I wear a mask, except…

As we are seeing COVID-19 cases rise across the US, I often find that people are shocked that they have been infected and regret that they have put friends and family at risk. They usually think they have been careful, so they are low risk of spreading the infection to others. When they stop to think about how often they remove their mask, they find too many occasions.

Places you can be exposed to COVID19 - not all inclusive.

Everyone is worried about the casual walk by an unmasked shopper, but most are infected by someone they know and spend time with. (I don’t mean to imply that you shouldn’t worry about masking at the store, but the relative risk of walking by someone in a store is less than other activities.)

We now know that if all people are wearing masks, the risks go down. Please encourage everyone to mask up unless you’re with only those who live in your home. *

* If someone in your home has been exposed or is sick, take precautions in your own home too! The CDC has detailed home isolation and quarantine recommendations.

All of these scenarios are made up, but based on the types of stories I’m hearing.

No one carries a sign that says "I have COVID19" so wear your mask, wash your hands, and watch your distance. @pediatricskc
We must wear masks and encourage those around us to wear masks because COVID-19 can spread before symptoms develop.

I wear a mask except…

When I’m at my desk at work and a coworker came by to ask a quick question. Then we got to talking and laughing. Neither of us felt sick.

When I’m at my child’s soccer game because it’s hot and outdoors. Yes, we yell and cheer, but we usually are about 6 feet from other parents. We see these families every week and no one’s been sick.

When I was in my yard gardening and a neighbor walked by. We talked for quite a bit. It was good to finally talk to someone! I have no idea what their exposures might be.

When I’m carpooling my kids and their friends home from practice. It’s only a short drive and they’ve been together for hours every week during practice without masks anyway. Of course they didn’t seem sick – they just ran and played hard at practice!

When I’m eating lunch at work. We try to sit further apart than usual, but we do get to telling stories about our families and laugh quite a bit. And sometimes it gets crowded in the break room so we sit next to one another. I work with them every day and they’re not sick so I didn’t think anything about it.

When I went to a friend’s backyard BBQ. Everyone was healthy and young. We were outside and eating, so didn’t think masks were needed.

When my sister and her family came to visit. They stayed for the weekend and no one seemed sick that whole time.

When we stayed at the hotel for my child’s out of town competition. We were mostly in our own room, but did eat together in common areas. The kids are together all the time and no one seemed sick.

When we had our annual family reunion. Each family unit had their own cabin and we were always outside when we gathered for activities with the extended family. Of course we grouped together while playing and taking pictures, but it was outside and no one felt sick.

And a slight twist…

I wear a mask with a valve because it is more comfortable. I didn’t know it allows my germs to escape and get those around me sick.

What do most of these have in common?

All the exposures are to and from people we know and trust.

No one seemed sick at the time.

COVID-19 Fatigue

I know by now we all have COVID-19 fatigue.

When we were first put on lockdown I was really careful.

I sanitized every part of my kitchen every night.

I kept my shoes in the garage.

I wore only clothes that could be washed on hot and was really careful to undress and shower as soon as I got home from work.

It’s hard to not feel fatigue…

These days I’m less likely to sanitize my kitchen every day. I wash dishes and wipe down the counters like usual, but no longer use a disinfectant on every door handle and surface every day.

I still take off my shoes before walking into the house, but that’s better for my allergies and easy.

I sometimes don’t shower before making dinner if I get home late now that I am less concerned about the virus being spread from my clothes. I’ve always washed my hands before and during cooking – usually several times during one meal prep because there are a lot of things that can get us sick from improperly prepared food.

Be vigilant

But I still wear a mask whenever I’m in public areas unless I am actively eating or drinking or I am able to close a door to be alone in a room.

If someone enters my office when I’m eating, I put my mask on.

I wear a mask it any time I’m around anyone outside my home. I usually even wear in the car to avoid touching it multiple times.

I keep hand sanitizer within reach so I can clean my hands any time I’ve touched public surfaces (doors, elevator buttons, groceries) before touching personal items (credit card, mask, face).

We know that COVID-19 spreads when we talk, laugh, cough, and breathe. I don’t want to be responsible for getting anyone sick, so I wear a mask.

Please wear yours.

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By DrStuppy

I am a pediatrician and mother of two teens. I have a passion for sharing health related information.

2 replies on “I wear a mask, except…”

This is one of those tricky questions. Masks help prevent the wearer from spreading the virus more than catching it, but it can work both ways. And if everyone over 2 years of age wears a mask, it is generally safer than many not wearing masks.

You have to know your kids – how well do they wear them? Will they play with them or leave them alone?

We think adults and teens spread COVID19 more readily than young kids – though that doesn’t mean that young kids don’t spread the virus.

We think that younger kids don’t get as sick from COVID19 – though no one knows what long term complications will be. Many viruses have problems that show up down the road, like people who recover from measles can get SSPE or people who recover from chicken pox get shingles. COVID19 hasn’t been around long enough to know if there will be late findings. We do know that rarely kids can get MIS-C about a month after being infected, but we don’t know beyond that.

If there aren’t many kids and they’re all under 10 years and the rate of COVID19 infection in the area is low: no.

If there are a lot of kids or the rate of infection in the area is high (like much of the US currently): yes. Maybe not for young kids, since we *think* they don’t spread COVID19 as easily.

On hot days I would remind kids (masked or not) to take water breaks often. With masks on it is easy to not drink as much because it’s more of a process to clean hands, remove the mask, replace the mask, clean hands again. All kids will need easy access to water bottles and hand sanitizer.

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