As Louisiana sees a spike in new cases of the novel coronavirus, officials are delivering a common message to the public.
Wear a mask.
Since the state’s COVID-19 outbreak in March, health officials have touted mask-wearing as a way to slow the spread of the deadly disease that has seen a resurgence in Louisiana over the last two weeks.
“One of the best tools is wearing a mask,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said last week. “You’re not doing it to protect yourself but the other people around you. We’ve had to say this an awful lot, but we know that there are still some people questioning the importance of wearing a mask.”
In a recent press conference, Edwards and State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry continued to stress the importance of all mitigation measures — washing hands, keeping at least six feet from others, avoiding large groups, staying home when sick, and wearing masks.
The last of those featured predominantly in a powerpoint presentation in which Guidry addressed “common myths” about mask-wearing, mostly pertaining to its effectiveness in slowing the spread of COVID-19.
Guidry said there have been tests “showing this does work” and urged people to avoid the “misinformation” that’s driving the anti-mask crowd.
“We jeopardize the economy and we jeopardize lives when we don’t take these simple measures seriously,” Guidry said.
Wearing a cloth mask does not work.
Guidry told people to think of the virus “as spreading in a mist.”
“If I talk or sneeze or cough, what keeps it from going to the next person?” he asked.
Guidry said wearing a mask “protects the person you’re next to,” adding that wearing a cloth mask is one of the ways the public “can effectively block the spread.” Masks should be worn anytime a person goes into public or is around people not from his or her immediate household, Guidry said.
“It’s only a part of what we need to do that works, but it’s an important part,” he said.
If I’m not sick, I don’t need to wear a mask.
Guidry said the recent spike in cases is partly attributed to “folks who feel good and don’t feel like they’re putting other people at risk,” particularly young people who have recently been contracting the disease at an alarming rate.
Since June 23, young adults ages 18-29 have accounted for 33 percent of the state’s 7,856 new cases (2,601). That age group is now reporting the most cases of any of the seven age demographics, with 11,057 total cases to date — or more than 1,600 cases from the next age group (30-39).
While people under 30 are themselves affected the least from the disease — only 14 COVID-19 related deaths among that age group in Louisiana so far — they can spread it to the more vulnerable population, which include people over 65 and those with underlying health conditions.
And young people shouldn’t wait until they start showing symptoms, Guidry said, adding that there are asymptomatic people who are testing positive.
“They don’t realize they can be asymptomatic and still spread,” Guidry said. “[Wearing a mask] is a little effort and it may be a little uncomfortable, but we know that if you wear this mask, you’re gonna minimize the exposure.”
“Even if you’re not sick, you can still be spreading COVID.”
If I wear a mask, I don’t need to social distance and avoid crowds.
Along with the lack of mask wearing, several large crowds with little to no social distance have been spotted in the last few weeks, more factors in the state’s recent surge.
During the current spike, more than 90 percent of the new cases were the result of “community spread,” meaning they didn’t come from congregate settings such as nursing homes.
To slow the spread, Guidry said people must wear masks in addition to avoiding large crowds and practicing social distance.
“You need layers of protection,” he said.
“These myths are driving the misinformation and [people are] not taking this virus seriously. This virus is coming back, and … it’ll start in young people and get into the vulnerable population. We know how it plays out because we witnessed it all through the spring.”
My mask just needs to cover my mouth.
Guidry said he can’t count how many times he’s seen people wearing face masks under their nose — or even worse, under their mouth.
“I can’t tell you how often I go out and see people wearing masks almost like a chin strap, with mouth and nose uncovered,” he said. “How are you preventing these particles from going to the next person? That’s not serving any purpose.”
Guidry said the nose is “where air is moving and fluids are moving,” adding that “anything that comes out of the nose as well as mouth can be infectious.” Wearing the mask over the nose and mouth is what can “keep this virus under control.”
“We’ve been saying it over and over again, but we see what happens when we don’t take it seriously,” he said.