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Guest Column

Protect your neighbor – wear a mask

By Robert Goldberg, MD

Pulmonary and critical care physician at Mission Hospital

Protect your Dr. Goldberg

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Robert Goldberg, MD

As we enter the fourth month of physical distancing and our communities begin to reopen, I want to urge people to continue to practice safety by wearing a mask. I am concerned that as the weather gets warmer, people may be tempted not to wear one, especially if they see others who are mask-free. 

As someone who has been on the front lines treating COVID-19 patients since the beginning of the pandemic, I’m here to tell you that not wearing a mask puts your health, and everyone you come into contact with, at risk. The best thing that you can do to protect the health of your family, friends, and neighbors – especially seniors – is to wear a mask. 

We’re not out of the woods yet. 

While many of us want our lives to resume a sense of normalcy, we’re still in the first wave of COVID-19. Unfortunately, people in our community continue to become ill due to COVID-19 and, in some cases, require hospitalization, a further indication that COVID-19 is still present in Orange County. 

As I’ve been caring for COVID-19 patients and talking with their families, many have tried to retrace their steps in the days before they became ill. They all wish they knew when they contracted the virus. Brian Patnoe’s family had weeks to think about it as he was under sedation and on a ventilator in an ICU at Mission Hospital. He thinks that he contracted the virus during a weekend getaway in San Diego when he attended a large concert and then spent time at Imperial Beach. 

Large public gatherings are one of the high-risk scenarios where masks are required according to Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent public order. Click here to read it. Whether you are indoors or outside, and if it’s not possible to maintain a physical distance of six feet from those who are not members of the same household, you need to wear a mask. 

Studies show that wearing masks and face coverings work. For example, a recent study published in Health Affairs (click here to read it), a peer-reviewed journal of health policy and research, found that masks help to reduce the spread of COVID-19, especially for those who are asymptomatic but contagious. An estimated 230,000 to 450,000 cases were prevented between April 8 and May 15 in states with mask requirements. 

We can all do our part to protect the health of our loved ones, especially seniors, by continuing to wear masks while also practicing physical distancing. 

Remember, if you experience shortness of breath or have trouble breathing, dial 9-1-1. Our emergency departments in Laguna Beach and Mission Viejo are available to all patients experiencing a health emergency. 

We’re aware that the fear of being exposed to COVID-19 may be stopping some from seeking essential emergency care. We want to assure you that Mission Hospital remains an exceptionally safe place to receive surgical and emergency care. The safety of our patients and caregivers is our highest priority.