As a healthcare provider, who has worked in many situations with infectious diseases including SARS in 2003, and H1N1 in 2009 among several others, I cannot emphasize how important it is to PLEASE wear a facemask, face shield, a scarf, or whatever protection you may have during this COVID-19 pandemic to avoid contracting or transmitting it to others.
Whenever inside hospitals, healthcare settings, or outside, wearing a facemask is one of the most important tools to avoid contracting or spreading the COVID-19 virus. And we should all be vigilant to practice this behavior to protect those we serve and love, and even those whom we may not have any affiliation with (the public). Masks drastically reduce the rate of COVID-19 infection among healthcare workers and the public. As we have seen with the decrease in cases of COVID-19 transmission, when everyone wears a facemask or face protection that would limit respiratory droplets, the rate of transmission is lower.
If you do not have a facemask, you could use other forms of protection such as, a face shield or in some cases a scarf or a facecloth that will cover your nose and mouth; also remember to wear sunglasses or your own eye glasses to lessen or avoid any airborne droplets entering the eyes, which also helps to reduce the viral load.
Transmission of the COVID-19 virus tends to be lower when facemasks or face shields are utilized especially in public places and social gatherings. And as we have seen, COVID-19 rates increase in the following week or two when NO facemasks/face shields have been worn during social gatherings, in addition to not adhering to social distancing. This tends to happen when no one follows the rules especially on holiday weekends, birthday parties, family gatherings, at the beaches/lakes, or at barbecues with many people present. It is important to wear a facemask in the presence of one person if you do not know her/his COVID-19 status (positive or negative). As a healthcare worker, I do not remove my mask whether I see one person or am among a large group of people.
Masks worn by healthcare workers serves a dual function: it protects the healthcare worker as well as it protects an uninfected patient from contracting COVID-19 from the healthcare worker, who may not be aware that s/he has been infected with the virus since some people are asymptomatic, and have not been tested for the virus.
Masks worn by other people serve to protect the public from contracting the virus from the person wearing it (s/he may be infected but may not be aware that s/he is positive for the virus due to the individual being asymptomatic).
There are various types of masks and many people are probably familiar with the N-95 mask used by healthcare staff; but other types of masks including the surgical or the cloth masks work well for the general public to don (wear) when going to school, out for grocery shopping, at work, or just for a walk.
Always remember to cover both your nose and mouth for effectiveness, and wear eye protection.
Remember to wear your masks and PPEs; we all have a part to play in mitigating the effects of COVID-19. Please stay healthy and safe; be kind and supportive to each other.