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  • Quinn Malter

Do We Really Still Need Masks?

As children prepare to go back to school while the Delta variant surges across Maine, masks are back in fashion. School districts across the state have reinstated mask mandates to protect children, educators, and their families at a time when the coronavirus is increasingly impacting kids and unvaccinated adults.

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding mask use during the COVID-19 pandemic. With a return to masks ramping up, we thought we’d take a look at some of the false information making the rounds.

Myth: Masks are useless against COVID-19.

Fact: Besides vaccines, masks are the most effective method to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which is spread through respiratory droplets that travel through the air. Masks are meant to prevent your respiratory droplets from infecting others while protecting you from infection by other people. When an individual wears a mask, depending on its material and composition, they filter up to 95 percent of the respiratory droplets and aerosol particles that can carry COVID-19. Check out this New York Times interactive article to see how it works.

That said, it’s important to know how to wear your mask properly: covering your nose and mouth, with a snug fit all around.

Myth: Masks trap carbon dioxide and make it harder to breathe/make people sick.

Fact: If you’ve ever been to a doctor’s office or hospital, you know this isn’t true. There is no risk of lower oxygen levels or carbon dioxide poisoning because carbon dioxide filters through a mask’s breathable fabric.

Myth: Healthy people don’t need to wear masks.

Fact: COVID-19 is known to produce asymptomatic cases, meaning patients may have the virus and spread it to others without realizing they’re sick because they show no symptoms. Wearing a mask keeps yourself and those around you safe from COVID-19. Whether you’re healthy, asymptomatic, or sick, a mask is still the simplest and best way outside vaccination to prevent the spread of the virus.

Myth: If you wear a mask, you don’t need to practice social distancing.

Fact: Masking alone is helpful in slowing the spread of COVID-19, but it’s not foolproof. Some respiratory droplets still find their way out of your mask, so it’s even more effective when combined with social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart) and other precautions.

Myth: Children are less likely to get COVID-19, so they don’t need to wear masks.

Fact: The rise of the Delta variant and lack of available vaccines for children under 12 have put kids at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Though the effects of the disease are generally less severe, there has been a rise in hospitalizations among children with the virus. Additionally, children can aid the spread of the virus to older, more vulnerable populations.

If you are the parent of a school-age child, click here to find out whether their school has a mask mandate for Fall 2021. (Note: Not a comprehensive list.)

The coming school year is a stark reminder that we’re not out of the woods yet with COVID-19. If we can continue to wear masks and get vaccinated, we can hope to return to normal in the near future.

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