Fort Worth, Texas,
11:32 AM

Why Wear A Mask? One Pediatrician's Perspective.

By Lindsay Newton, M.D.

See me over there? That's me stopping at Target on the way home.I'm wearing clean scrubs in my photo. Many physicians and health care workers change clothes after their workday if they need to make a stop on the way home. So please be kind when you see us out and about. Notice what else I'm wearing? A mask. I wear one every time I go out. Let's talk about why.

As I'm writing this, my brain is full and my heart is confused.

That about sums up the past 90 days or so dealing with COVID.

Early on, there was the wearying deluge of information to deal with and the attempt to have coherent answers to the questions of worried patients. There was the anxiety many of us felt in March, worrying about PPE and hospital capacity and the never-ending question of “Are we going to be like New York?”

There was the oddly buoying effect of quarantine when we watched everyone hunker down and try to stay safe and sane in what felt like the WETTEST SPRING EVER. And now the weather is nice, and the stores and restaurants are open, and I wish I could run toward this reprieve with open arms. 

But this may well be our bigger challenge – the balance of staying safe and returning to our jobs, our loved ones, and our lives.

Psychologically, I think it’s hard to say “Pandemic! Coronavirus!” in our heads when everything looks so normal on the outside. Especially when the information out there is so conflicting.

I Google too. And it’s not easy to filter through it all, especially when there is so much that is UNKNOWN. I wish I had the answers for myself, my patients, and my own family.

But I don’t.

And the smartest people I know don’t have them either. There’s just not enough legitimate data out there yet.

But we are making progress.

I LOVE that we have increased COVID testing and I am hopeful that will continue to guide us in the next few months. A recent estimate showed that staying home this spring saved about 8,000 lives in Tarrant County alone. It wasn’t easy, but WE DID IT. Unfortunately, COVID is far from over.

We don’t know whether this is going to be a slow burn with a (hopefully) low rate of infection that persists over the next year, or whether it will spike again like the Spanish flu, where a second wave of infections was more deadly than the first.

SO MUCH depends on our actions.

This is the time for us to go back to the basics of microbiology and hygiene, with a hefty dose of common sense and compassion. Asymptomatic and presymptomatic spread are a real concern.

Studies have shown a person has the virus and is contagious 2-3 days before symptoms appear. At least one-third of people with coronavirus got it from someone without any symptoms at all. Droplet, aerosol, surface, fecal-oral transmission – translate that to GERMS EVERYWHERE!

If you have kids, you already know how fast and easy droplets can spread! Studies have backed this up, showing that a single cough or sneeze can eject TWO HUNDRED MILLION virus particles. Large droplets (the wet stuff) can travel as far as 30 feet and smaller aerosols (the slobber-free stuff) can stay in the air for 16 hours.

Now, we have received an executive order requiring us to wear masks in public in Tarrant County. More and more studies have shown that even regular ol’ cloth masks can reduce spread of coronavirus SIGNIFICANTLY especially if a big chunk of the population wears them. The more people in masks, the less infections. 

Masks combined with physical distancing and hand hygiene WORK!

Let’s keep doing this so we can go back to REAL normal and stay safe. We need to stay home even when we are only mildly ill. We need to limit who we hang out with and our proximity when possible. We need to wash our hands like crazy and use hand sanitizer when we are out and about. We need to keep wearing masks to protect ourselves and others.

I will do it for me and I will do it for you.

Get to know Lindsay Newton, M.D.

Dr. Newton grew up in Oklahoma and came to Cook Children's in 2009. She has served as a hospitalist and as a primary care physician in the Neighborhood Clinics. In 2020, she transitioned to the Short Stay Unit where she will care for children who are hospitalized. She recognizes that having a child in the hospital is a stressful time for families. She strives to ease their concerns with compassionate discussion and a little fun when possible. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, reading, and cake decorating.

Learn more about Dr. Newton here.

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