By Polly Mikula
On Friday, April 3, Health Commissioner Mark Levine officially recommended that Vermonters wear cloth facial masks, or coverings, if they need to leave their homes for essential purposes. This advice is based on new data about how COVID-19 can spread before a person has any symptoms, in other words: before they know they’re contagious, he said. Therefore, wearing a face mask may help keep people from spreading the virus unknowingly.
At Monday’s press conference, April 6, Levine reiterated the recommendation. “Wearing a mask will help you protect your fellow Vermonters if you’re harboring the virus without knowing it.”
The state’s recommendations follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines closely, Levine said, but it should be applied with common sense: “Do you have to wear a mask when you go on a walk in the woods with your dog? No!” he said.
However, prior to last week’s announcement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as departments of health around the country had been telling people not to wear masks out in public if they didn’t have symptoms. The rationale then was that wearing a mask offered little to no protection.
Levine said Friday that thinking had changed over the past 24 hours and he is now recommending people, including those without symptoms, wear a facial covering in public.
“Now we know from more recent data that pre-symptomatic spread of (COVID-19) is possible, especially in the 48 hours prior to symptom onset. So wearing a face mask may help people from spreading the virus,” Levine said, Friday.
Face coverings are not a substitute for physical/social distancing and other prevention measures, Levine said.
Governor Scott echoed that message, too, saying that wearing a mask “is not an excuse to mingle with others. Please continue to follow the measures we put into place even if you’re wearing a mask.”
According to the CDC, in addition to the 48 hours that someone is contagious before symptoms present, it is now estimated that 25% or more of people infected with the virus won’t experience any symptoms at all, but can still spread it.
Because of those findings Scott and Levine stressed in the press conference Monday, April 6, that masks were just as much for the protection of others as they were for the wearer of the mask.
Due to the lack of face masks in the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci, lead physician of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, has cautioned against ubiquitous recommendations for the general population to wear face masks, saying any such advice will be contingent on having an adequate supply.
Rutland resident Sharron Keene shared a helpful solution for those that might not have masks with the Mountain Times.
“I was struggling to keep a scarf up over my face and then I thought: why am I not just pulling a Skida right over my head?” she said. They are thicker, offer better protection and have structure to stay in place, she added.
Macy Johnson wears a cloth mask when she leaves the house for essential errands.