Dr. Colleen Lyons: Wear a mask, save lives

Currently, the second wave of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths are hitting Europe: France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Britain. Italian citizens are demanding more testing and contact tracing to accompany the return of lockdowns. National governments are creating policies similar to those in Nevada to impose harsher restrictions on public activity depending on the number of cases and hospitalizations in any particular region.

America can anticipate a similar, if not worse, second wave. Before voicing your concerns about personal freedoms and economic woes, I believe you should consider your medical triage priorities. Because without recurrent increased restrictions, we will have medical care shortages and system failures.

Do you favor not hospitalizing those currently residing in nursing homes, an approach Sweden took during their first wave. The Swedish government provided guidelines to their nursing homes, not to transfer patients with COVID to the hospitals, but rather to provide them with morphine and sedatives, in hopes their likely deaths would be quiet.

Perhaps, you favor no hospital care for COVID patients receiving Social Security benefits or those receiving disability benefits. Which adults or children will you decide should forego hospital care? There simply aren’t enough hospital beds and medical personnel to allow the rampant spread of the virus.

The simple act of wearing a proper mask has been shown to reduce the risk of COVID spread by 85% and your chances of getting infected by 65%. In the U.S., areas requiring masks saw a 25% decrease in cases, those without a mask mandate saw a 75% increase. COVID like so many medical conditions shows us, yet again, how delayed consequences enable bad behavior.

If you are one who values your freedom to breathe without a mask above all else, obviously, you will stand aside as those who chose to follow public health guidance receive medical care before you do. For those who cry they would rather die than suffer additional economic hardship, I hope you don’t suffer either, or suffer the medical expenses associated with a belonged hospitalization or permanent complications of COVID such as congestive heart failure, stroke, and chronic lung or kidney disease. Any of which could prevent you from being a financially contributing member of society for the rest of your life.

It is estimated that only 10% of the U.S. population has been infected so far with COVID. Yet, the virus has killed 244,000 people and produced an additional 75,000 excessive deaths to date. Americans have suffered through 600,000 hospitalizations (CDC data: 183.2 hospital admissions for every 100,000 people). Economists, Wall Street and Main Street all know there can be no real financial recovery without control of the pandemic. Protect your wallet and your health — wear a proper face mask over your nose and mouth, NOT a gator, bandanna or plastic face shield.

Colleen C Lyons, MD is a retired family physician and fourth generation native Nevadan living in Carson City since 1992.


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