Jamie Swift, Ballad Health’s corporate director of infection prevention, has heard the myths about mask-wearing, and wants people to know that wearing a mask is the safe, and considerate, thing to do.

“I really just hope that I can continue to educate and reinforce that mask wearing is simply a way that we can care for others, and a way that we can care for our community,” Swift said. “The thing of, my mask protects you and your mask protects me is completely true.”

Swift has been vocal on social media about getting people to follow public health guidelines — something that’s become even more important as cases in the state and the region continue to spike.

“The only way to slow this down, and not have rapid spread and increase but to have as little increase as possible is through wearing a mask every time you’re out, social distancing and good hand hygiene,” Swift said.

With 648 total positives in Northeast Tennessee’s eight counties, Swift said the odds you pass or come into contact with somebody who’s infectious increases — and wearing a mask can help reduce the risk you get the disease and pass it onto others.

“To protect our community, we have to make sure we’re wearing that mask — especially if you traveled — I think it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re wearing a mask,” Swift said.

As the pandemic continues to worsen though, Swift said people need to continue following the guidance of public health officials, or start doing so if they haven’t thus far, particularly when it comes to masks.

“I really just hope that people take a step back, even if they’ve been adamant against the masks, and really understand that this is for the good of the community, and embrace that recommendation,” Swift said. “Everyone wants to move forward, everyone wants to move past the pandemic — the only way we do that right now until we get a vaccine is to do these measures.

“The quickest way we can get back to somewhat of a normal life, is to do the things we’re asking so wear the mask and slow the spread down and keep our numbers low and we’ve got a much better shot of seeing somewhat of a normal routine returning.”

During the Press’ interview with Swift, she discussed — and dispelled — several common myths about mask wearing.

Is wearing a mask dangerous or otherwise bad for your health?

“(That’s) not true, we have worn masks in healthcare for many, many years,” Swift said. “There’s multiple studies out there to debunk any of those stories you may see circulating on social media — it is just not true.

“We’ve had hours in masks as healthcare providers without issue.”

Should you only wear a mask if you’re sick or have any symptoms of COVID-19?

“The biggest problem with that (thought) is that we know asymptomatic spread is a significant contributor to infections now, and people have to remember that this is a novel virus, so things that we didn’t know about this virus at the very beginning of spread, we know now,” Swift said. “And that’s the whole message shift with masks.

“At first we weren’t sure how well asymptomatic carriers could spread it, and so there were questions if everyone (needed) to wear a mask,” she continued. “As the outbreak has grown, as there’s been more cases, as there’s been more research, we know that asymptomatic spread is significant, so now the recommendation is that everyone wear a mask when you’re in public.”

Do masks actually help reduce the spread of COVID-19?

“There are multiple studies out there that now show that they do,” Swift said. “We know that if there's something on your face and you cough or you’re talking or singing or sneeze, that mask is going to catch those droplets.

“Is it 100% (effective)? Absolutely not, but we know that it significantly reduces the spread of droplets.”

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