Face mask myth dispelled


By Ashley Penn-Nixon

Compass Correspondent

Since the announcement of the nation’s first COVID-19 case just one week ago, residents throughout the country have increased their efforts to guard against the spread of the virus by wearing face masks.

The protective piece of equipment has been identified as a key apparatus in avoiding the virus, however, health officials dispelled the myth that once worn, an individual would be exempted from contracting the virus.

Speaking out on the misnomer is the Director of the National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Programme Dr. Nikkiah Forbes who said the masks are actually intended for a certain category of persons.

“Masks are for two categories of people:  that is sick people who are either having cough, fever, or shortness of breath, sneezing and other symptoms.  Or healthcare workers in order to protect them when providing care for patients with COVID-19 in the fields,” she said. 

“If you are not in this category of persons, wearing a mask will not prevent you from getting COVID-19.  You’re going to touch it more and air can leak around it making you more at risk and its going to deplete those masks for healthcare workers…I’m asking you not to do it.”

The health official also explained how COVID-19 is transmitted amongst individuals.

“Based on our understanding, the virus transmission in most contexts is droplets.  What that means is that someone with COVID-19 speaks or coughs or sneezes, those particles can move in droplet nuclei.  They can land on someone close by either within three to six feet and get in their eyes, nose or mouth.  Or you could touch a surface with them, and you can put it in your eyes, nose or mouth.”

Weighing in on the uncertainty of whether the virus is airborne or not, Dr. Forbes explained a few ways in which this act can exist.

“That information about the virus being airborne there’s a context – so it was being studied and they looked at could it be aerosolized.  They did a special procedure where they injected it through a small syringe and it can be in the air for about three hours, but the context is you have to aerosolize it.

“There are certain procedures that healthcare workers do that increase the possibility of this happening, like when we put a tube down into somebody’s airway to help them to breathe.  In a general context without doing those things, we do not think that this virus can be aerosolized,” she continued.

Forbes discouraged persons from wearing masks who do not fall within the previously mentioned categories.

Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands assured that there are sufficient supplies for healthcare workers, noting that in fact, they are ahead of the game.

“We recognize that this was something that could potentially be a problem, so several weeks ago we started to identify M-95 masks, surgical masks, gloves, gowns etc.  We now have more than an adequate supply, not just for healthcare workers but for Immigration, Defense Force, Police Officers and so on and so forth.”

“We are calculating the burn rate to see how long an inventory that we have, and we have more than many weeks supply and we anticipate this week that we are going to have huge additions to that supply.  By the grace of God, we will continue to be well ahead of our demands.”


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