‘Think About Entire Community’: Doctor Urges Mask-Wearing as COVID-19 Cases Surge in US

© AP Photo / Bebeto MatthewsPeople wait for a distribution of masks and food from the Rev. Al Sharpton in the Harlem neighborhood of New York, after a new state mandate was issued requiring residents to wear face coverings in public due to COVID-19, Saturday, April 18, 2020
People wait for a distribution of masks and food from the Rev. Al Sharpton in the Harlem neighborhood of New York, after a new state mandate was issued requiring residents to wear face coverings in public due to COVID-19, Saturday, April 18, 2020 - Sputnik International
Despite the surging COVID-19 cases in some US states, many Americans are still claiming that having to wear masks in public is an infringement of their civil liberties. However, Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious disease physician, told Sputnik Friday that wearing masks during a global pandemic is simply a matter of public health.

“First of all, wearing a mask is not a civil liberties issue, it’s a public health issue,” Kuppalli told Loud & Clear host John Kiriakou.

“We’ve had thousands of people already die from COVID-19 in the US. We are the leader globally for the number of infections from COVID-19, and we need to do something to try and help curb what’s going on right now,” noted Kuppalli, who is also the vice chair of the Infectious Disease Society of America’s Global Health Committee.

“The recommendation for masks is because we’re in a mitigation phase of the pandemic, and what that means is that we need to really think that everyone potentially has COVID-19. As you know, you can have [an] infection and not show symptoms. You can have [an] infection and be pre-symptomatic before you develop very bad symptoms. And so, the idea for wearing masks is to not just protect other people from your potentially infectious droplets but also to protect yourself as well,” she said. 

“And I feel like the guidance has been increasingly clear about mask-wearing, and the arguments about ‘I can’t wear a mask because it infringes on my civil rights,’ you really need to think about the entire community at this time. We are not just thinking about ourselves but everybody that could potentially be at risk,” Kuppalli added.

Some recent studies have shown that masks can help prevent COVID-19 infection.

A June 15 study found that countries that implemented mask-wearing policies faster had lower COVID-19-related death rates and shorter outbreaks. A Cambridge University study released earlier this month also found that masks can greatly reduce COVID-19 transmission if they are worn by enough people.

Several US states, including Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Missouri and Oklahoma, have been experiencing spikes in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis ordered the immediate shutdown of bars Friday in response to the explosion of new cases, while Texas Governor Greg Abbott hit pause on the state's reopening plan this week.

“I think it’s really hard to have an overall recommendation for the entire country, because in different parts of the country, different things are going on. However, in the places where we are seeing cases surge like Arizona and Texas and Florida, we really do need to strongly consider tightening back up on our public health measures and looking at what we are doing, because it is apparent that we opened up too early,” Kuppalli told Sputnik.

“If the government officials aren’t taking these steps, I really would advise people to stay at home as much as possible, to remain physically distant. Wear a mask if you have to go out [and] continue to use good hand hygiene,” Kuppalli added.

In a news conference Friday, World Health Organization Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said that British drugmaker AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which was developed in collaboration with the University of Oxford, is most likely the globe’s leading vaccine candidate so far. AstraZeneca has already started large-scale human trials of the drug. Swaminathan also noted that US biopharmaceutical company Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is “not far behind” AstraZeneca’s and is expected to go into phase three clinical trials in mid-July.

“I think one of the things that people need to keep in mind is that if we do get a vaccine in the next few months to a year, that will be one of the fastest vaccines that has ever been developed. We don’t really have a timeline for how long it takes to develop a vaccine. As many people may know, for something like HIV, we’ve known about this for at least 40 years, and we’re still working on a vaccine for HIV,” Kuppalli said.

“That being said … It seems like things are moving well and forward with this vaccine development. I believe that the Moderna vaccine is getting ready to start phase three … Phase three trial is when you give the vaccine to thousands of people and test for efficacy and safety, but there are numerous vaccine candidates not just in the US but globally as well that are being looked at,” she noted.

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