Here's why health experts recommend masks during pandemic

Science

Constant updates make it hard to miss the latest breakthroughs in COVID-19 treatment. Between promising drug trials and forged scientific articles it can be hard to know what advice to follow. Sometimes it feels like you need a degree in virology just to understand what’s going on. That’s where organizations like the WHO (World Health Organization), CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and your local public health department come in. International, national, and local governments task them to develop public health care guidelines. Experts from many fields are called in to review new research, weigh the pros and cons, and release guidelines. They recognize that people still need to work, shop, and socialize, even in the face of potential danger, so these guidelines are the best balance between safety and resuming normal life. 

On June 5, the WHO updated when people should wear cloth masks. Previously, they recommended masks only for those with symptoms or those caring for them. Why did they make this change? New studies came out on masks preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Science is constantly evolving, and this is happening even faster with COVID-19. As scientists learn more, old research becomes outdated and there’s a rush to publish new information as soon as possible. As new research on mask wearing was published, the WHO and CDC decided to update their guidelines. In the process of developing new guidelines, the WHO and CDC filter the evidence and review the highest quality research. The WHO and CDC assemble a group of experts from many backgrounds (too many to list here), follow procedures to minimize bias, and publish the process on their websites so the public can trust the result. Everyone can see who developed the recommendations, why, and what data they used. Economists weigh in on how much changes can cost, and public health officials explain guidelines in an understandable way. Below are up-to-date recommendations on who, when, where, why, and how to wear masks.

So what’s the latest recommendations for wearing masks in Wisconsin? 

Who: 

People older than 2 years of age unless they have trouble breathing or need assistance to remove their mask. 

Where and When: 

Outside the home conducting essential activities such as going to work, to the grocery store, pharmacy, banking, and enjoying outdoor activities while maintaining physical distancing.

How: 

Before putting on a mask, clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.

Make sure your mask covers your mouth and nose with no gaps between your face and the mask.

Do not touch your mask while wearing it; if you do, clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. 

Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp.

Always wear your cloth reusable mask with the same side facing outwards.

See the Wisconsin department of health services website for more guidelines: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/protect.htm

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