New research is reinforcing the critical importance of wearing a face mask around others to limit the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
COVID-19 cases are surging in South Carolina and across the Tidelands region. Horry County has consistently recorded more than 100 cases per day recently and has been named a hotspot for the disease.
Because the the COVID-19 coronavirus is thought to spread primarily through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or even talks, public health officials and health care providers have been encouraging people to wear face masks when they are in places where social distancing is difficult.
Recent research backs up that recommendation.
“Wearing a mask when you’re in close contact with others is a very effective means of limiting the spread of the disease,” says Dr. William Jackson Epperson, medical director of primary care for Tidelands Health and a family medicine physician at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Prince Creek. “Masks don’t have to be fancy – a simple homemade cotton mask is effective when you go about your daily activities such as going to the grocery store or visiting the pharmacy.”
A study led by a professor at Texas A&M University found that wearing a face covering or mask significantly decreased the number of COVID-19 infections. In New York City, for example, the study found that using a face mask reduced the number of infections by 66,000 in just over one month. Researchers concluded that wearing a face mask in public was the most effective way to prevent transmission.
Meanwhile, first-of-its kind research published in early June in “The Lancet” also found that wearing a mask significantly reduces the risk of viral transmission. The study, which analyzed 172 studies from 16 countries across six continents, examined various interventions to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, SARS and MERS from an infected person to people close to them. Researchers found wearing a mask could reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission to 3 percent.
And a study published June 16 in the medical journal “Health Affairs” found that states that mandated the use of face masks in public had a greater decline in COVID-19 growth rates than those that didn’t.
“The research conducted to date is pretty clear we can make a big difference in the transmission of COVID-19 by wearing a face mask and following other simple precautions,” Dr. Epperson says. “Making those lifestyle changes can be challenging, but it’s well worth it.”
In many places, including all 60-plus Tidelands Health care locations, wearing a mask or cloth face covering is required to help limit the spread of COVID-19. At Tidelands Health, it’s part of the not-for-profit organization’s “Safe in Our Care” commitment, a series of extra precautions put in place to protect patients and reassure them it’s safe to get the medical care they need.
Wearing a mask is important even if you aren’t exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19, Dr. Epperson says, because an estimated 40 percent of transmissions occur before people are symptomatic.
In addition to wearing a face mask or covering, he says people should practice social distancing and good hand hygiene and follow established guidelines for quarantining or isolation if diagnosed with COVID-19, experiencing symptoms of the illness or exposed to someone with the disease.
It’s especially important for people at high risk from COVID-19 to limit their contact with others, he says, though it’s important for people of all age groups to continue receiving the medical care they need.
In case of emergency symptoms from COVID-19, immediately call 911.
“Everyone needs to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Dr. Epperson says. “Ultimately, by following these precautions, we can save lives.”
Dr. William Jackson Epperson
Family Medicine Physician, Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Prince Creek
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Family medicine physician Dr. William Jackson Epperson, medical director of primary care at Tidelands Health, practices at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Prince Creek.Learn More
- University of South Carolina
- Anderson Family Practice
- Eastern Viriginia, Graduate School of Medicine
- Family Medicine
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Dr. William Jackson Epperson
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Family medicine physician Dr. William Jackson Epperson, medical director of primary care at Tidelands Health, practices at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Prince Creek.