Surgeon general: Face masks mean more freedom

WASHINGTON D.C. — U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams went online June 14 to encourage Americans to wear cloth face coverings in public to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

“Some feel face coverings infringe on their freedom of choice — but if more wear them, we’ll have MORE freedom to go out,” Surgeon General Adams shared on Twitter.

Face coverings mean less asymptomatic spread, which means more places will open, and sooner, he explained. “Exercise and promote your freedom by choosing to wear a mask covering!” he added.

Earlier this year, some health organizations did not recommend the use of masks by healthy individuals outside of clinical settings. The rationale at that point was to make sure demand by the general public did not make it more difficult for medical professionals and first responders to obtain sufficient supplies of masks. However, when data showed that 50% to 60% of those who were COVID-19 positive and contagious had no symptoms, the recommendations were revised to encourage everyone to maintain a “social distance” of at least 6 feet from others in public, and to wear cloth coverings of the nose and mouth when in public.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) started promoting the use of cloth face coverings in April. CDC research found the virus is most commonly transmitted in the droplets of moisture expelled from a person’s mouth or nose when they talk, cough or sneeze. Wearing a cloth over the nose and mouth helps catch this moisture so it does not land on someone else.

If you are a carrier, your mask helps to protect others from you. Their masks protect you, should they be carriers.

On June 5, the World Health Organization updated its advise to encourage the use of fabric masks. WHO also advised health care workers and caregivers wear medical masks throughout their shifts while in clinical areas.

The change in CDC and WHO recommendations has contributed to some of the misinformation online about COVID-19 and the importance of wearing masks. This problem is aggravated by the spread of outdated information by social media. As the scientists study and learn more about COVID-19 virus, the recommendations have changed. A social media post that shared WHO recommendations in March is no longer accurate in June, but it may still continue to be circulated online by the uninformed.

In the Lake Okeechobee area, community leaders encourage everyone to wear cloth face masks when in public. Groups of community volunteers have sewn thousands of masks that were donated to those who needed them. FEMA has also sent distributions of cloth masks to those in agricultural areas.

The Florida Department of Health has shared videos on how to make your own cloth face mask from a bandanna or piece of cloth.

Many doctors’ offices now require patients wear masks. Some Florida counties and cities have gone so far as to pass ordinances requiring face coverings be worn inside all public buildings.

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