Living in Tennessee every winter, we see people’s breath when they are outside. We see it on TV among players on the football field. Tiny droplets of moisture in our breath become condensed to a cloudy mist as they cool down to 45 degrees or below.
We can see that we breathe the same air into our lungs that came out of the lungs of the person next to us. God gave us this ‘Air that We Share.’ If that air contains the influenza or a coronavirus, such as Covid-19, we breathe it into our lungs.
After inhaling the virus, whether we get sick or not, depends on the battle that our immune system fights against the virus. Lesser the number of enemy soldiers (virus particles) that enter our body, better the chance of victory for our immune system.
A mask is a physical barrier against the number of virus particles that might enter our breathing passages. Type of material and the fit of the mask are important. It is certainly better than allowing free entry, and welcoming the virus into our lungs.
Scientists have studied the misty winter cloud that we create when we breathe out. In the lab, they use a Laser Light Scatter method. Our breath is a mixture of air and moisture with small, medium and large liquid droplets. These droplets carry the virus.
While talking, we put out ‘talking droplets’ with small amounts of virus. Coughing, sneezing, yelling or singing put out large droplets with a lot of virus. These settle down on surfaces usually within six feet.
It is the medium sized droplets that disperse most of the virus. As their moisture evaporates, virus hangs in the air. A mask is protective in these situations.
I am a surgeon. In my field, the value of a surgical mask is proven. I knew a surgeon whose patients were developing staph infections. A smart infection control nurse took a culture from his throat. It grew staph. She also noticed that his mask was not covering his nose. A proper fit matters. When he wore the mask properly, the results were good! The mask protected his patients.
Masking mandates have been imposed in Germany, Italy, China, Argentina, New York and many cities in the US. These were successful. A mask, at this time, is the next best thing to a vaccine, which we do not have yet!
I, and my fellow healthcare workers, wear masks to protect the public. We know that we can become infected any day. We could have received a negative test the day before. We also know that people are infectious to others even before they feel sick.
Over half of the infections occur in this way. It is a moral duty for us to mask so that we do not spread the infection. We must protect others.
A few common questions are:
- 1. “I am healthy. I am strong. I can handle it. It is no more than a slight flu or not even that! Why do I need a mask?”
This person is at a high risk for infection. By being infected, you become a “carrier” of the virus, even if you are not sick. You can pass this infection to a person who gets seriously sick. Corona is a “new” virus. We do not know the long-term behavior or consequences of this new infection, even for you.
- “I have certain rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States! The mask mandate takes away my Freedom and Liberty!”
I have great respect for this statement. As an immigrant, I am most grateful for the freedoms we enjoy in America! We do have a public health emergency. Generations before us went to wars to protect the freedoms that we enjoy. Hundreds of thousands gave their lives. We are just being asked to wear a mask for a while. We obey rules regarding traffic lights, speed limits, seat belts, DUI laws, no smoking in public places and many more.
- 3. I note that the above examples are laws passed by elected representatives in Legislatures. Whereas mandates are issued by state and local officials under emergency rules. I have personal concerns that, with this precedent, can government impose other intrusive mandates under emergency authority?
We have discussed these concerns at the Tennessee General Assembly. It is under consideration that a declaration of emergency lasting beyond 60 or 90 days be approved by the Legislature.
Strong protections for Freedom and Liberty are enshrined in our Constitution. We must protect those! We must also be good stewards and show personal responsibility to protect fellow citizens.
Respect and empathy must go to our leaders who make difficult decisions with limited information and a good heart! We are faced with an uncertain future that no one has seen before, not even our experts!
In John 13: 34, Christ tells us to love one another. This is an especially critical time for our nation. Let us follow His Command.
Sabi Doc Kumar MD is the State Representative for District 66 - Robertson County. Reach him at Rep.Sabi.Kumar@Capitol.tn.gov.