Emergency physicians urge Americans to continue covering their faces in public

As regions of the country are seeing rebounding rates of COVID-19, the American College of Emergency Physicians reminds everyone that practicing social distancing and continuing to cover your face when in public is the best recourse to slow the spread of the virus.

“As emergency physicians continue to battle the greatest public health crisis of our generation, you can do your part to stop the virus by covering your face when you need to be around others,” said William Jaquis, MD, FACEP, president of ACEP. “Although COVID-19 continues to disrupt our way of life, we as a nation can band together in this simple step to protect ourselves and our neighbors.”

While medical professionals continue to urge anyone with COVID-19 symptoms to self-isolate, even those that don’t suspect they have the virus should cover their face because they could be asymptomatic and still be contagious. The infectious viral particles emitted when someone talks, breathes, coughs or sneezes can remain in the air for up to three hours.

Reports have shown that covering your face with a mask or cloth during those infrequent times you need to be in public have effectively flattened the curve. According to a recent study from The Lancet spanning 16 countries, there is a 17 percent reduction in risk of infection for those wearing a mask or face covering versus those not covering their face.

The CDC and ACEP recommend that people who are not medical professionals wear cloth or homemade masks in public rather than tighter fitting medical-grade masks, like the N95. Currently, CDC recommends that anyone above the age of 2 wear a face covering, with exceptions for those who have trouble breathing or cannot remove a face covering without assistance.

Without a cure, personal choices and safe behaviors are the best defense against spreading COVID-19 and overwhelming our health care system. Although it may be inconvenient or uncomfortable, covering your face does not meaningfully deprive the body of oxygen. Workers in many professions wear masks that meet National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health standards all day without experiencing breathing issues. Many of the masks worn by people in fields like construction or manufacturing are heavier than the cloth coverings recommended for the public.

“Communities may be reopening but we are definitely not out of the woods yet. We cannot let down our guard. We can all do our part to safeguard our communities and prevent the spread of the virus,” said Jaquis. “Cover your face, wash your hands frequently and practice social distancing. These three simple steps offer the best protection that we have until a vaccine is developed.”

Visit emergencyphysicians.org for more information about protecting yourself from COVID-19.

The American College of Emergency Physicians is the national medical society representing emergency medicine. Through continuing education, research, public education and advocacy, ACEP advances emergency care on behalf of its 39,000 emergency physician members, and the more than 150 million Americans they treat on an annual basis.

For more information, visit acep.org and emergencyphysicians.org.