Opinion: Why I’m wearing a mask

Opinion: Why I’m wearing a mask

Let’s just wear masks as a gesture of solidarity and concern for all members of our community.

  • Tuesday, April 7, 2020 3:00pm
  • Opinion

I’m wearing a mask in public because I want to do my part in helping our community get back to work, safely. Beyond hand washing and social distancing — please continue these.

I strongly support wearing a mask when in an environment in which 6 feet of distance between people is not 100% guaranteed. When I’m out walking on a trail I can maintain 6 feet of distance. If I go into a grocery store or to a medical setting, including my own office, I cannot guarantee the 6 foot space around me. So I’m going to continue wearing a mask.

I recently tested negative for the antigen, which is the test currently available and assesses active viral load. When pondering how my thinking has changed with this result, I concluded: not much. Because there is a 30% chance that the result (detecting active virus) is a false negative. Plus, the possibility is ongoing that I, and any of us, could become infected by an asymptomatic carrier. I am now a little more concerned about protecting myself, whereas before, not knowing whether or not I was a carrier, I was more concerned about protecting those whose base health is less robust than mine. But fundamentally my behavior is not changing. I’m observing universal precautions until I can get an antibody test (which will almost certainly allow me to consider myself immune, as though I had received a vaccine, which is still at least a year off). The antibody test will allow us, if positive, to know both that we are not contagious, and nor are we at risk of contracting the current strain of COVID-19 because this test will measure our individual immune system’s response to the virus. If we have not been exposed, we will not be “immune” to COVID-19 until the vaccine comes out, so until then I will likely support wearing a mask in public.

Juneau has done a fantastic job flattening the curve and preparing against Bartlett becoming overwhelmed with severely ill COVID-19 patients. I commend the leadership and cooperation between CBJ, Bartlett, and the extended medical community. I commend the majority of Juneau citizens who are taking universal precautions against a COVID-19 wildfire. However, not all citizens are being careful enough, in my opinion. We don’t have an antibody test in Juneau yet, but that is coming before the end of April. This test will be available first at Juneau Urgent Care and likely soon through Bartlett’s set up near the DMV — call 586-6000 to start the process for the antigen test now.

What will it take to safely open up our society and our businesses again? I believe there are several considerations and we can all help with the project. First, we need to continue to take universal precautions — hand washing, staying 6 feet away from others when in public, and wearing masks. When Juneau is no longer reporting new cases, we will be at the tail end of our peak, and we may cautiously begin to prepare for our new, careful, “normal.” We must keep in mind that being at the end of this current peak is not necessarily the end of COVID-19.

In order to be safe, and keep our more vulnerable safe, we will need to either continue to wear masks, or show that we are antibody positive with no respiratory symptoms.

YouTube videos on home-made masks are trending.

I’m hoping CBJ will mandate that grocery workers wear masks, at the very least during senior shopping hours.

Some grocery workers are wearing masks; many are not. This puts our grocery workers at risk, and also increases risk of asymptomatic spread of the virus.

Wearing a mask greatly reduces YOUR risk of falling victim to an asymptomatic shedder, as well as ensuring against the possibility of being an unwitting shedder yourself. Further, masks lower the likeliness that you will put your fingers in your nose or mouth. Look at pictures in the news of public officials all over the place with their hands near their faces! We do this unconsciously! Also, wearing a mask destigmatizes folks that may indeed be suffering from a respiratory illness. Let’s just wear masks as a gesture of solidarity and concern for all members of our community. When you see someone in public wearing a mask, give a nod of gentle thanks and smile with your eyes. Together, we will achieve wellness.

• Dr. Emily Kane is a naturopathic doctor, licensed acupuncturist and has practiced family medicine in Juneau since 1993. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.

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