• Why You Have to Wear a Face Mask in my Office

    Woman wearing a face mask

    When it comes to decisions to reopen a business during a pandemic, there are no easy answers. There are always going to be people who think you should have opened earlier and some who think you’re opening too early and aren’t ready to come back to your business just yet.

    Let me tell you, it was very difficult deciding to re-open once we reached phase 4 and I was finally allowed to. What wasn’t difficult was deciding that everyone, myself included, would be required to wear a face mask not just in my office, but in the suite as well.

    Here’s why:

    • The SARS-CoV-2 virus can be transmitted even when the infected person is asymptomatic or presymptomatic. That means you can pass it on even if you feel healthy. If you do not feel healthy, you should stay home unless you are going for medical treatment.
    • Information and recommendations from March of this year, that cloth face masks don’t work, are outdated. Those recommendations were based on the premise of low disease prevalence. 3 1/2 months after Michigan’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order in mid March, we know that’s not the case.
    • The virus* is passed through respiratory droplets** which are caught by your own mask***, if you’re wearing it correctly.****
      *The virus is actually a fragment of RNA which is only 0.1 microns (100 nanometers) in size. However, it is not alive; no one is inhaling or exhaling viral particles. They are inhaling and exhaling those particles enclosed in a respiratory droplet.
      **Experts have found that the virus is transferred via respiratory droplets. These droplets are considerably larger than the virus at 5-10 microns (5,000-10,000 nanometers) in size.
      ***Cloth masks have been tested and found to stop droplets that are 300nm (0.3 micron) in size and are therefore sufficient to contain all or most of your respiratory droplets, depending on mask fit and whether you sneeze, cough, yell, or sing.
      ****Masks fit properly if they cover both the mouth and nose, cover the chin, and have no gaps at the top or sides.
    • Masks have enough space between the weave to allow oxygen* and carbon dioxide* to pass through. This means that you can get plenty of oxygen through your mask, but it may take more effort than without a mask. It also means that carbon dioxide can easily pass through so you will not have a build up of carbon dioxide in your mask. If you don’t believe me, ask a surgeon who typically wears a surgical mask (which catches smaller particles than cloth masks) for 8-12 hours a day.
      *Oxygen and carbon dioxide molecules are much smaller than respiratory droplets, or even the viral particle. They are measured in picometers. 1 million picometers will fit in 1 micron.
    • Cities, states, and countries that require face masks have much lower infection rates than those that don’t.
    • They’re simultaneously old-fashioned (think flu pandemic of 1918) and the latest fashion trend (you can now find cloth masks for every fandom, cause, interest, and aesthetic out there.)
    • Even though cloth or surgical masks are less effective than N95 masks, they’re still way better than nothing. For instance, we know that no method of birth control is 100%, and that sometimes birth control fails, but we acknowledge that if we want to prevent pregnancy they are way better than taking your chances and using no protection at all. Right? Same premise with masks.
    • It is largely agreed upon by virologists and epidemiologists that masks offer other people more protection than the wearer, therefore wearing one can be construed as a sign of empathy and caring for other’s well-being.
    • Almost a month into phased re-opening, Michigan is once again seeing a rise in cases of COVID-19.
    • Business owners have a lot at stake when re-opening. A mere 3 weeks after restaurants were allowed to re-open in Grand Rapids, 3 eateries (one a business that houses several food and entertainment businesses) had to close for an indeterminate amount of time and undergo extensive and expensive disinfection processes because at least one of the servers at each establisment tested positive for COVID-19. It is every business owner’s nightmare to have a staff member or client become sick with COVID-19.
    • Restaurants are particularly risky because patrons can be forced to social distance from other dining parties but they cannot eat with a mask on. However, massage businesses are risky as well because we cannot practice social distancing. Therefore, our main mitigation plan is to make everyone wear a mask.
    • I will have disposable surgical masks available for you to wear if you forget yours.
    • Remember, the point of wearing a mask is risk reduction, not absolute prevention. When combined with frequent hand washing, it’s even more effective that it is on its own.

    Here’s a great article on The Science of Face Masks from the University of California