As physicians on the front lines combatting COVID-19, we know that wearing face coverings (masks) in public is an important factor in slowing the spread of COVID-19.
We are all very tired of this pandemic and how it has impacted all our lives; deaths of friends and loved ones, partial shut-down of our economies, education at home, cancelled cultural and sporting events, wearing masks, testing, politics, etc. But the virus is not done yet and those of us with increased risks are still contracting and dying from this virus at alarming rates.
As we enter the cooler months of the year and the holiday season, we are seeing an increase in COVID case rates as more people are coming together indoors and the need for us to all wear masks is now more important than ever. Your doctors are wearing masks and we urge you to wear them as well to protect others. The virus is spread through respiratory droplets and if these are caught in a face covering, they are not in the air to infect someone else.
The virus appears to be spreading faster in areas without requirements to wear face coverings compared to those with requirements to wear them. As of October 20th, of the 35 states (including DC) with face covering requirements, the average number of new cases per day per 100,000 population was 17.61; in the 16 states without mask requirements the average was 33.15 (more than 88% more new cases in states without face covering requirements). The data suggests what common sense already tells us: wearing face coverings matter and the more people who wear them and follow the other sensible guidelines, the fewer new cases of coronavirus we will have per day.
We are taking care of more and more hospital patients who are seriously ill and too many are still dying of COVID. Our ICU bed capacity is starting to be limited and more of our vulnerable elderly patients are contracting the virus now compared to earlier in the pandemic. We do not want to see you or one of your loved ones, friends, or coworkers in our emergency rooms, hospitals, and clinics with COVID-19. Until we have a safe and effective vaccine to stop this pandemic, we plead with each of you to wear a mask anytime you are in public, especially when you are indoors and when near other people outdoors. Let’s do what we can to protect our fellow Tennesseans.
Your doctors are here to take care of you and sometimes we are required to give advice no one likes. This is one of those times. But we want you to be informed and we hope you will help us stop this plague one person at a time by wearing masks.
Face coverings are important; let’s work together and #stopCOVIDTN.
M. Kevin Smith, MD, PhD, MACP
President, Tennessee Medical Association