Face Coverings Could Save 130,000 American Lives from COVID-19 by March 2021

Mary Madison, RN, RAC-CT, CDP
Clinical Consultant – Briggs Healthcare

This is the title of NIH’s (National Institutes of Health) Director Dr. Francis Collins’ November 3, 2020 post.  It is well worth the read and sharing with colleagues, family and friends. 

Here’s an excerpt from that post:

“The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has already claimed the lives of more than 230,000 Americans, the population of a mid-sized U.S. city. As we look ahead to winter and the coming flu season, the question weighing on the minds of most folks is: Can we pull together to contain the spread of this virus and limit its growing death toll?

I believe that we can, but only if each of us gets fully engaged with the public health recommendations. We need all Americans to do the right thing and wear a mask in public to protect themselves and their communities from spreading the virus. Driving home this point is a powerful new study that models just how critical this simple, low-cost step will be this winter and through the course of this pandemic.

Right now, it’s estimated that about half of Americans always wear a mask in public. According to the new study, published in Nature Medicine, if this incomplete rate of mask-wearing continues and social distancing guidelines are not adhered to, the total number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States could soar to more than 1 million by the end of February.

However, the model doesn’t accept that we’ll actually end up at this daunting number. It anticipates that once COVID mortality reaches a daily threshold of 8 deaths per 1 million citizens, U.S. states would re-instate limits on social and economic activity—as much of Europe is now doing. If so, the model predicts that by March, such state-sanctioned measures would cut the projected number of deaths in half to about 510,000—though that would still add another 280,000 lives lost to this devastating virus.

In other words, if most Americans pulled together to do the right thing and wore a mask in public, this simple, selfless act would save more than 130,000 lives in the next few months alone. If mask-wearers increased to just 85 percent, the model predicts it would save about 96,000 lives across the country.

But think about it in the same way you think about putting on your seat belt—a minor inconvenience that can save lives. I’m careful to wear a mask outside my home every time I’m out and about. But, ultimately, saving lives and livelihoods as we head into these winter months will require a collective effort from all of us.

To do so, each of us needs to follow these three W’s: Wear a mask. Watch your distance (stay 6 feet apart). Wash your hands often.”

These statements are from trusted public health experts – folks that are trying to avert increasingly tragic deaths in this country as well as around the world.  The long-term care industry – including assisted living and congregate living sites – have taken the brunt of this pandemic, losing far too many beloved residents and healthcare workers.  We know that coronavirus enters LTC and congregate living facilities from the surrounding communities and staff.  Get the word out on how to save lives – we’re heading into a “twindemic” – flu and COVID-19.  Our lives and livelihoods depend on what we do to control the virus and not let the virus control us.   

If you haven’t seen Community spread triggers growing number of COVID-19 cases in nursing homes: AHCA, I encourage you to read this piece in today’s McKnight’s LTC News.   It also speaks to what we can do for our communities.