In light of rising coronavirus cases and deaths, the like of which hasn’t been experienced since May of this year, the CDC recommends adherence to stricter mask-wearing guidelines.

Scientists emphasize the importance of wearing masks indoors when ventilation is shoddy and social distancing is harder to abide by. For those of us who live with people who may be at high risk for contracting and dying from this virus, research suggests wearing masks at home might be a good idea — until a widespread vaccine becomes available.

This relatively new study has been updated with the World Health Organization’s most recent data points on COVID-19. Dr. William Schaffner is an infectious disease expert working at the Vanderbilt University of Medicine and he imparts the following scientifically sound advice.

“The value obviously would be that you are providing additional protection to people of advanced age and people with serious underlying illnesses, extending the protection that you were being careful about outdoors into the actual home.”

It’s high time we set our individual needs for “comfort” aside to protect the most vulnerable members of the populous from succumbing to this fatal illness. I assure you a ventilator will be far more uncomfortable than cotton cloth coverings, but please don’t take the risk to find out.

The science behind a multi-pronged approach to stop the spread

Early on this year, the CDC set forth guidelines that claimed people should socially distance upwards of 6 feet from strangers in public. If they were unable to do so they should wear a mask. This, coupled with handwashing and avoiding touching your mouth, nose, and eyes outside the house, were considered the most effective mitigation techniques.

These techniques are only effective if you exercise caution on every level.

Dr. Saskia Popescu claims early recommendations focused more on the socially distanced mode of lowering transmissions is to blame for lax attitudes concerning mask-wearing.

“I think we placed a lot of initial emphasis on masking and social distancing when you leave the house, and that gave the impression that if you could maintain social distancing, a mask somehow wasn’t necessary, which isn’t the case. Really, the communication is that we use social distancing, hand hygiene and masking as a team approach to try and avoid transmission.”

With colder weather and all of us huddled closer together for warmth in poorly ventilated public spaces this spells disaster for the future projections of how devastating COVID-19 will be.

If you live in a multi-generational household with older relatives or anyone who is at high-risk for having the following pre-existing conditions such as a medical history with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, chronic lung disease, or HIV/AIDS it’s extra important you wear a mask when you can in common shared spaces in the home. Scientists suggest popping a mask over your mouth and nose when you are unable to keep 3.2 feet of distance between you and your immunocompromised relative while cohabitating this season.

If you are unable to wear a mask while doing basic things like eating, drinking, or bathing it might be best to “schedule block” common space hours reserved for those who need to be protected in your home. Many people feel comfortable and honestly thankful that you are considering their health needs more important than where and when you eat your breakfast that morning. We all have to sacrifice some of our most basic creature comforts to protect our loved ones in this trying time. Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University, drives this point home. “I think it’s reasonable to ask people to wear a mask when they are at home with high-risk individuals, but there will be some times that this is just not possible.”

Dr. William Shafner understands this stricter call to wear masks at home will be difficult to enforce. We are relying on a lot of “good faith” prescriptions here and you can’t control what people do in the privacy of their own home.

“Those who have been more ‘conservative’ about the protections may adopt the guidance and those who are resistant to mask mandates and other recommendations may not. It’s a new idea people are going to have to think about it. It won’t be widespread very rapidly for sure.”

Governor Cuomo says, “Mask wearing is a sign of respect.” It’s not about personal freedoms being infringed upon, it’s about protecting the American people from losing a projected 400,000 people to this virus by April 2021. Do your part.

The takeaway

I understand we are all at our wits end when it comes to losing more and more of what we considered to be normal life as this virus continues to rage on. Luckily, FDA trials of the vaccine have been promising and with that on the horizon hopefully, people will be able to hold out a bit longer to sacrifice a few of their normal routines to save countless lives.