PERSPECTIVE: Public Masking Should Be the New Normal

by Richard A. Hogan, MD

As a health-care provider in Door County for almost 27 years, I have come to love the county, and the people who live here, and those who visit this remarkable place. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has put our whole country into an awful situation from economic and health standpoints. I have been surprised during the few times when I have ventured into public places. It appears that half the people I see in stores are not wearing masks and are not abiding by the six-foot social-distancing rule. 

This virus has caused a great deal of misery and is no doubt going to cause more. The benefits of wearing a mask and social distancing are unequivocal to the epidemiologists who are studying the pandemic. 

I understand the feeling that some people have that the imposition of rules regarding the wearing of masks and social distancing is an infringement on their basic human rights. On the other hand, the good people of this county would cringe if they thought they might be infecting other people. 

The main reason to wear masks is to prevent the spread of this virus. We do not wear the mask to protect ourselves exactly, although there may be some protection for us. We wear the mask to protect the other people around us. The mask will contain particles that are produced by our own coughs and sneezes, and even by singing and talking. 

People who have no symptoms may think the mask is unnecessary. They may think they are tough and will not get infected by this virus. They may think that if they do become infected, they can fight it off. Of course, that is not the point. The point is that a person may be shedding viruses unknowingly because viral shedding often occurs days before symptoms occur. There have been cases in which people had the virus and had no symptoms but were shedding viruses nevertheless.

I urge the good people of Door County and our visitors to put on a mask when in public and to adhere to the six-foot social distancing as best we can, knowing that we cannot maintain it 100 percent of the time. We need to open up the public venues, but we must do so in a responsible, thoughtful way.

Door County Medical Center has been very responsible in dealing with the virus. Some people worry about coming into the clinic or the hospital. In the beginning of the pandemic, that certainly was a concern. Since the beginning, the DCMC medical staff has taken well-thought-out, practical and successful measures to limit viral spread. It’s very likely that people are safer coming to the clinic and hospital than they are in one of our big-box stores. 

I’m told that the usual surgical masks can be obtained at several stores in Door County, and many people have been able to produce cloth masks that hopefully will do just as well as surgical masks. 

We are all in this together, and we all need to do the right thing. When exposed to other people, please put on a mask. For the time being, masking in public should be the new normal.

Dr. Hogan is an internist and pulmonary and sleep specialist at Door County Medical Center.