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Better Ask Barry: Do surgical masks help?


People search for protection against coronavirus

SALINAS, Calif (KION) Who are all those masked men and women?

In major cities, airports, and smaller communities around the country, more and more people are donning face masks after a handful of cases of the coronavirus here in the U.S..

“I know it's not 100 percent, but I think it would be unwise not to take whatever precaution I can,” said Miguel Jimenez, a traveler.

According to experts, common surgical masks – made of paper and loose fitting -- offer very little protection against coronavirus or SARS virus.

“It is unnecessary,” explained Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services. “As we said, in the United States, the risk to any individual American is extremely low.” 

Those who study infectious diseases say it’s really the sick person who should wear a mask.  

“Wearing a mask when you do not have symptoms is not really that helpful,” said Dr. Frank Esper of the Cleveland Clinic. “If they are feeling like they have symptoms, we do ask them to put on mask when they are coming to our waiting room, our ER, or into a public space. It helps prevent the spread of infection.”

There are more expensive surgical masks with ventilators and filters, but even those are not recommended in the prevention of coronavirus.

A better bet to stay healthy is to wash your hands, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth – things we do more often than we think.

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Barry Brown

Barry Brown is an anchor and reporter at KION News Channel 5/46.


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