In recent weeks and months there appears to be some unwarranted controversy about the wearing of facemasks in places where we interact with other folks.
TRANSMISSION OF COVID-19
The virus that causes COVID-19 is spread from one person to another person through respiratory droplets produced generally when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths and/or noses of people nearby. Spread is more likely when people are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). Based on data from lab studies on COVID-19 and what is known about similar respiratory diseases, other transmissions of COVID-19 occur by touching the surface or objects that have the virus on it and then touching one’s own mouth, nose or possibly eyes.
CLOTH MASKS MAY PREVENT TRANSMISSION OF COVID-19, AN EVIDENCE-BASED, RISK BASED APPROACH
Annals of Internal Medicine May 22, 2020
This article recognizes that while the direct evidence is not 100% that public mask wearing protects either the wearer or others, given the severity of this pandemic and the difficulty of control, the position of scientists and physicians still urge the benefit of wearing a mask. Reduced outward transmission and reduced contamination of the environment are the major proposed mechanisms (mask wearing) and they recommend appealing to altruism and the need to protect others.
THE ANTIMASK LEAGUE LOCKDOWN PROTESTS OF THE 1918 INFLUENZA PANDEMIC
One hundred years ago the influenza pandemic hit the West Coast harder than any other major populated area in the United States. As pointed out by historians, the protests in late 1918 and into early 1919 helped turn a manageable public health situation into a disaster, courtesy of the movement known as the ANTIMASK LEAGUE.
It began after the initial wave of infections in the fall of 1918 died down. The protests began and some refused to wear masks – so instead of continuing to “flatten the curve,” defiance to common sense measures on the grounds of limiting personal liberty shot the curve into a meteoric rise of new cases. Predictably this led to a second wave of illness and death in the area torn over debates concerning the efficiency of masks and whether they should be required. Then, as now, a loose alliance of constitutional conservatives and economic boosters joined in the opposition to the idea of masks, even as the amount of cases and deaths exploded. While civic-minded physicians attempted to convince people to wear masks as some kind of fashion accessory, the Anti-Maskers complained bitterly that the obligation to cover one nose and mouth was unconstitutional affront to the principles of free society.
As with all of our constitutional rights, there are some limitations. "Shouting fire in a crowded theater" is a popular analogy for speech or actions made for the principal purpose of creating panic. The phrase is a paraphrasing of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.'s opinion in the United States Supreme Court case Schenck v. United States in 1919, which held that the defendant's speech in opposition to the draft during World War I was not protected free speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Most Americans in 1918 misunderstood the purpose of wearing a mask- the primary purpose of wearing a mask is not to prevent a healthy person from getting sick, but rather to prevent people who are already infected (whether showing symptoms or not) from contaminating others.
OUR MASKS PROTECTS YOU. YOUR MASK PROTECTS US.
Perhaps thinking of the coronavirus pandemic as a fire raging through our communities that is spread by infected people breathing out invisible hot sparks every time someone speaks, coughs or sneezes would help illustrate the point. So while sneezing and coughing may be the most dangerous sparks, and speaking less so, these invisible sparks cause others to catch fire, and in turn, these people continue to breathe out until we all truly catch fire and get sick. If we just keep our sparks from being sent out every time we spoke, or coughed, or sneezed, many fewer people would catch fire. Since we don’t know for sure who carries the sparks at any given time, the only viable solution is for everyone to wear masks. This also benefits the wearer because fewer fires mean we are each less likely to get burned.
OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO OTHERS
As Registered Nurses, Attorneys and members of the community, the discomfort we may experience wearing a mask – fogging glasses, itching ears, mussed hair - does not outweigh the benefit to those around us. These are small prices to pay for increasing safety. As some of our Nurse colleagues will quip, wearing a mask is much easier than “wearing” a ventilator. As we reflect on the sacrifices others have made for the public good, including first line health care workers, soldiers at all times, and many others in our communities, we are being asked to do so little to benefit so many. It is not as if we have been asked to hide Jews from the Nazi’s in our attics, donate a kidneys or bone marrow, or even forge into the deepest jungles to discover a cure for this terrible illness. We are simply being asked to wear a cloth covering over our mouths and follow some other safety guidelines.
Our masks protect you. Your masks protect us.
Here are a few tips for using a cloth mask
- Place your mask over your mouth and nose.
- Try not to touch your mask while wearing it.
- If you accidentally touch your mask wash or sanitize your hands.
- Remove the mask by untying it or lifting off the earlobes without touching the front of the mask or your face.
- Regularly wash your mask with soap and water in the washing machine. It’s fine to launder with other clothes.
- Please don’t use facemasks as a substitute for social distancing.
Let us all truly put this into perspective as we venture back out and continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are Susan Ramsey and Amie Goldberg, both practicing attorneys and nurses here at the Romano Law Group. Here is a little more about each of us:
Susan Ramsey is both an attorney and an RN. Ms. Ramsey’s professional experience began as a Registered Nurse in the Intensive Care Unit at Yale New Haven Hospital. While pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree, she was a counselor with the New Haven Rape Crisis Program. During her time with the Program, Ms. Ramsey counseled sexual assault survivors and performed seminars for local police departments, universities, and high schools. During her time working as a registered nurse, Ms. Ramsey decided to attend law school. Ms. Ramsey graduated from CUNY Law School, and has practiced law in several different State and Federal Courts. She is a Florida Heath Care Risk Manager and a member of the Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force. Ms. Ramsey actively litigates cases involving catastrophic injuries and wrongful death on behalf of survivors, cases include injuries suffered by victims of professional negligence, product liability and medical negligence.
Amie Goldberg is both an attorney and a certified APRN. After completing a Bachelor of Arts Degree at Whittier College, Ms. Goldberg attended nursing school at Emory University. Ms. Goldberg’s professional experience started as a Registered Nurse at Egleston Children’s Hospital taking care of children with congenital heart disease. After a few years, she continued working in all areas of the hospital while attending Kennesaw State University on weekends in order to get her Master’s Degree in Nursing with a specialty of Primary Care Nurse Practitioner/Family Nurse Practitioner. During her time as an APRN, Ms. Goldberg decided to attend law school at St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida. Since graduating, she has mainly practiced in the areas of personal injury and worker’s compensation, fighting for the rights of injured people. Since joining the Romano Law Group, Ms. Goldberg has been the Director of the Opioid Litigation Project. Ms. Goldberg also practices in the area of Medical malpractice and nursing home negligence, bringing an inside perspective and knowledge to help get justice for our clients.
Our masks protect you. Your masks protect us.