By Rep. Michele Meyer
Posted Jul 11, 2020 at 12:15 PM via Seacoast Online
I know we are all eager to stop COVID-19 in its tracks, especially if we can do so in a way that helps our small businesses and avoids widespread closures that interrupt our daily lives. As we learn more about the novel coronavirus and how it spreads, research is showing that a simple, readily available tool – face coverings – can help us do just that.
The science behind face coverings is actually quite simple. COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets expelled when a person coughs, sneezes or even just speaks. A mask or cloth face covering acts as a barrier to prevent these droplets from coming into contact with those around you. This is especially important because research shows that people with COVID-19 can – and do – spread the virus before they have shown any symptoms. That means you could spread the virus to those around you long before you even know you have it.
Here’s the thing: The use of face coverings is most effective when it’s widespread. That’s why it’s so important that we all do our part.
Wearing a mask is an act of kindness and consideration. It’s responsible citizenship. My mask protects you. Your mask protects me.
Beyond that, though, the widespread use of masks and cloth face coverings must be a cornerstone of our plan to rebuild Maine’s economy.
It’s not enough to simply open the doors of Maine’s businesses. If customers don’t feel safe, the majority of them won’t come. If we want to protect our economy, we must also protect our visitors and residents alike. We must prove to them that we are making every effort to keep them safe as they patronize our establishments.
That’s why I have advocated for a coordinated public outreach campaign to reach both Maine residents and tourists, instilling confidence and communicating around what we are doing to keep each other safe. I have also called for a statewide effort to provide face coverings at key locations like visitors centers. Locally, I organized the Eliot Strong Mask Bank, working with mask makers in my community to provide masks free of charge. If you need one, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gov. Janet Mills has recognized the importance and effectiveness of face coverings by requiring them in public settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain. More recently, she has directed this requirement be enforced throughout much of the state. Her administration has also launched the Keep It Maine campaign, encouraging all of us to take the steps necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Here are a few points to keep in mind when it comes to face coverings:
* To be effective, a face covering should be worn over the nose and mouth. Try to fit it snugly but comfortably against the sides of your face.
* Wear face coverings in public settings when around people who don’t live in your household
* While face coverings are particularly important in settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain (for instance, the grocery store), it’s still important to stay at least six feet apart whenever possible and to wash or sanitize your hands frequently.
The CDC does not recommend the use of surgical masks or respirators for typical daily use. I want to address this, because it’s caused confusion for some folks. The reason for this advice is that surgical masks and respirators are critical supplies for health care workers and first responders. It’s important to reserve them for when they’re really needed. But for most of us, a simple cloth face mask will do the trick as we run errands and go to appointments.
Wearing a mask or face covering may seem a small gesture or, to some, an inconvenience. But if we all do our part, the use of masks will go a long way toward keeping our communities and economy healthy. Together, we can save both lives and livelihoods.
Rep. Michele Meyer, D-Eliot, is a first-term member of the Maine House and a registered nurse. She represents Eliot, part of Kittery and part of South Berwick and is a member of the Health and Human Services Committee.