Expert weighs in: Should you wear a mask?

Cutting through mixed messages on whether masks really protect us

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – We are getting mixed messages about wearing masks and whether or not they protect us from the spread of the new coronavirus. Even the smartest voices are divided on the issue. So what information do you believe? That’s why News4Jax developed the “Trust Index." We go to the experts and get answers you can trust to make sure you and your family stay safe.

The CDC has been saying masks are not only unnecessary for the general public but counterproductive. But there are reports it is reconsidering that recommendation. The U.S. Surgeon General says there is no research to show the masks help. He has been against the idea. Others are weighing in as well.

Dr. Deborah Birx with the Coronavirus Task Force worries the mask guidance would lead to a “false sense of security” for Americans. And worries people would stop following social distancing guidelines

The World Health Organization’s Chief of Epidemiology, Dr. Mike Ryan, said there is no specific evidence to suggest wearing masks has any benefit, but there is evidence to suggest the opposite.

Dr. Saumil Oza, the chief of Cardiology from Ascension St. Vincent’s in Jacksonville, is mounting an effort for everyone to wear masks. He appeared on “The Morning Show” and said he thinks it will help stop the spread

“There’s a lot of reasons to wear masks,” Oza said. “One is to protect yourself and one is to protect others. There is a lot of data from other countries, from smaller randomized studies that have shown benefits of masks, just cloth masks if worn properly and handled properly, to stopping the spread of viral diseases like COVID-19.”

And the masks he’s talking about won’t take away from the protective gear hospitals and members of the medical community wear. He wants people to wear masks of the same kinds of material used to make shirts, dresses and scarves.

“It’s critical that people don’t use PPE, such as this surgical mask here or N-95 masks,” Oza said. “These are not masks that need to be worn in public. They need to be saved for medical professionals.”

Oza said protecting the medical community is a priority and again emphasized he is not advocating using materials that are the same as those used for personal protective equipment.

“If we don’t have enough in the hospitals to protect ourselves, the doctors are going to be sick, the nurses are going to be sick, the staff is going to be sick and we’re not going to have the personnel to protect the general population,” Oza said. “So by using these masks, you could actually hurt yourself by not allowing us to treat the community appropriately."

Oza is trying to get some high-profile members of the community, like the Jaguars and area college teams, behind the effort to encourage more people to make, distribute and wear the masks.

And, he emphasized, even if you wear the mask, maintain your social distance and wash your hands regularly. He said it not a substitute for those protocols in protecting yourself from the new coronavirus.

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