Just wear the mask, folks


Randy Riley - Contributing columnist



Life can be complex, confusing, frustrating, demanding and at times overwhelming.

Maybe it’s human nature, but there have always been people who want to blame a conspiracy for the bad things that are happening to them and that are happening around them. Some folks simply cannot look at a difficult situation without trying to identify some small group of villains who have perpetrated a hoax on all the rest of us.

When experts in healthcare, infectious disease and science explain what is happening and what we should do to improve things, some people, instead of believing the truth, instead of believing science, will believe the nonsense they read on the Internet. They will believe the nonsense being spread by the ignorant, rather than believe the truth that has been explained by the experts.

Come on folks, just wear the mask.

Bear in mind, this specific column is not now being written by a former, small-time, local politician, While writing this specific column, I’m putting back on my respiratory therapist lab coat.

I began my career in respiratory therapy at Miami Valley Hospital in April of 1970. Within a short time, I became the ICU technician. Each day, I would go up to the ICU on 4-SW to work with ventilator patients and the sickest-of-the-sick. In November of 1972, I accepted the job of assistant director of respiratory therapy and EKG at Memorial Hospital of Union County. Up there, we did it all. It was a small hospital so the respiratory therapy staff had to be prepared for whatever came in.

When I heard that the director of respiratory therapy position was opening up at Clinton Memorial Hospital, I jumped at the chance. I started at CMH in April of 1976. Over the years, I served as director of respiratory therapy, cardiac diagnostics and cardiac rehabilitation, EMS and trauma services. I retired from CMH in January of 2003.

Shortly before my hospital retirement, I had joined a federal disaster medical assistance team (DMAT-OH5) to provide respiratory therapy as part of their disaster medical team. We were the first medical providers to arrive in Biloxi, Mississippi following the devastation inflicted by Hurricane Katrina.

When it comes to breathing, when it comes to moving gas in and out of the lungs, when it comes to getting oxygen to the cells and removing carbon dioxide… I know what I’m talking about.

Come on folks, just wear the mask.

Some people are claiming that a simple mask traps carbon dioxide and forces the wearer to re-breathe their own exhaled gases and that after a short period of time, the person wearing the mask will pass out. Nonsense. If that was the case, surgeons and OR nurses would be passing out every day in every operating room in the country. That is just not true. Come on folks, just wear the mask.

Some people see the wearing of a mask as an infringement on their constitutional rights. Nonsense.

We heard the same thing being spouted 50-years ago when wearing seat belts became the law. Some people fought it, but the courts have upheld every challenge to the seat belt, car seat and booster seat laws. Seat belts can and do save lives. One of the reasons that a civilized society needs laws is to protect each other from harm.

Wearing a simple mask in public can and will save lives. Just wear the mask.

A simple face mask is designed to protect other people from what you might be exhaling. Whenever someone sneezes, coughs or even speaks droplets are exhaled. At the center of each droplet (the droplet nuclei) can be hidden a germ or virus. Within seconds, the fluid surrounding the germ or virus will evaporate and that tiny, microscopic germ or virus can float in the air for several hours.

Later, when someone walks down the aisle of the store and inhales, that germ or virus can enter their lungs.

You have just spread an infection. It might not be the coronavirus. It might be a common cold or the seasonal flu, but your disease has just been spread to someone else.

However, if you were wearing a simple mask that germ or virus would not have ended up floating around. That is the purpose of the simple face mask — to keep you from spreading a disease that you might not even know you have.

There are several kinds of masks that have been designed to do different things. The simple mask keeps you from easily spreading germs or virus. The N95 mask, when properly sized and fit-tested for the person wearing it, is designed to protect the wearer from inhaling another person’s germs or virus. The large system that look like a space helmet is called a particulate-air-purifying-respirator (PAPR). They provide large volumes of purified air to the person wearing it. This helps keep them from inhaling potentially contaminated air.

It is horrible that science is being politicized.

This should not be about political party. It should not be about being ideologically right-wing or left-wing. This issue is about protecting others and helping to get this pandemic under control.

Florida senator and former republican presidential candidate, Marco Rubio put it rather succinctly last week. After having lunch with Vice President, Mike Pence, Rubio, when asked about masks, stated, “Everyone should just wear a damn mask.” Although normally I hate quoting politicians, that’s pretty good advice.

Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

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Randy Riley

Contributing columnist