After the Cheshire Board of Education meeting on Aug. 12, I was made aware that the public still had questions regarding the public health mitigation strategies to stop the spread of COVID-19.
What is a public health mitigation strategy? These are important actions that one can take to help reduce the risk of an occurrence or situation. Regarding COVID-19, public health strategies would be steps to reduce the risk of becoming infected with the virus.
Public health strategies that have been advised during the past 18 months include:
1. Following healthy hygiene practices. This includes washing your hands frequently. If soap and water is not available, then use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol. Cover your coughs and sneezes.
2. Stay at home if you are sick.
3. Physical distancing. If you are inside your home, avoid contact with others who are ill. If possible, stay 6 feet from those who are ill and other household members. If you are outside, try to keep 6 feet from others, unless they are members of your immediate household.
4. Wear a cloth face covering. There is an abundance of guidance on how to select the correct face mask, how to properly wear the face mask and more at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/science-briefs/masking-science-sars-cov2.html.
The goal of using these public health mitigation strategies is to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to protect all individuals, especially those who are at increased risk for severe illness. We have seen that people who get COVID-19 can experience a range of symptoms, from showing no symptoms, to mild symptoms, to severe symptoms that require hospitalization and intensive care. There is also the possibility of being placed on a ventilator. Death is also possible.
These mitigation strategies are used to promote behaviors that prevent spread, help maintain a healthy environment, help maintain healthy operations and prepare us for when someone gets sick. They are designed to reduce exposure among individuals, reduce transmission, reduce the burden on the health care system and long-term goals of minimizing COVID deaths.
Public health agencies and the health care systems use these mitigation strategies daily in their operations to keep those they are treating safe and to reduce the risk of infections.
The question was also raised as to the scientific efficacy of face coverings, and I wanted to share some information. If you go to https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth- face-cover-guidance.html#recent-studies, you will find reference to many scientific studies that were done in the past year in regard to wearing face masks. These studies address the efficacy of various types of face masks, including cloth (single, double and triple ply) to surgical masks to N95 (respirator) masks and their efficacy to control of particle emissions. The results showed that “wearing a surgical mask or KN95 reduced the outward particle emission by 90% and 74% during speaking and coughing compared to wearing no mask.”
At the BOE meeting, some members of the public also had concerns about inadequate gas exchange. In February of 2021, a study was conducted using 50 adults to see if inadequate gas exchange was truly a concern. Several studies already found mask wearing causes statistically insignificant or clinically insignificant effects of heart rate and gas exchange. This study concluded that face masks did not impair oxygenation or ventilation among their test subjects at rest or during physical activity. They further state that the risk of pathologic gas exchange impairment with cloth masks and surgical masks is near-zero in the general adult population.
We understand a segment of the public find their masks uncomfortable. I would recommend that if a face mask is uncomfortable to try a different type or a different manufacturer. Face masks come in many types and styles and there are also mask accessories that may improve the comfort of your mask.
Finally, these strategies are intended to keep people safe and to reduce the spread of the virus. Please be considerate of those people in our community who are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination and whose physicians have recommended delaying their vaccination due to current medical conditions or treatments.
Please know that as your Chesprocott Public Health Director, I am here to serve you. Please do not hesitate to contact me with your concerns or questions.
Do your part and mask up for yourself, your loved ones, and your community.