It’s been almost three years of thinking about and planning around COVID-19. We’re all sick of worrying about the illness. For those of us who are at an increased risk if we become infected, we can’t ignore its presence. Even with this, I’ve changed my approach over the last few years (and even months). I’m not a medical doctor but I’m fortunate to have direct connections to the healthcare field for updates. These have helped me feel like I always have a trusted source. That said, my approach might not be best for you. It might not even be best for me by next month! I continue to try to learn and adapt. Here’s my plan for now.
Why Do I Still Wear a Mask?
I still wear a mask in crowded spaces because I have less control over other factors that could minimize spread. With colder weather, there are fewer opportunities to be outside. I wear a mask to protect other people and myself. In the last few months, I’ve found myself thinking about the need to wear a mask because our children’s hospitals are overflowing with kids who are sick from respiratory illnesses (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/01/science/rsv-children-hospitals.html). Even if it’s not COVID-19, I want to do my part to reduce that spread; in our household and beyond!
True to my inherent love for all things cheese, I really like the Swiss Cheese model, (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/05/health/coronavirus-swiss-cheese-infection-mackay.html ) to explain the “why” behind masking. This model teaches us that masking is an important layer of protection, but it’s not the only one. We can also wash hands, stay home when sick, test regularly, and stay up to date on our vaccines. This model helps explain why I don’t mask as often as I did at peaks of the virus.
When Do I Still Wear a Mask?
I don’t wear a mask as often as I previously did, which was any and all times I was with people outside of our home. In transparency, I’ve gotten out of the habit at some times when I probably should. I almost always remember in some situations, like going into the drug store or in public transportation. I’ve flown several times in the last few months and wear my mask from door to door, through the airport, on the plane, and to my destination. I’ve attended a few in-person conferences and try to mask up almost always there too. Interestingly, the conference I attended with the least consistent masking was focused on disability (but the majority of the crowd was not disabled).
The hospital where I work still requires masking in patient-facing areas. I don’t always wear my mask if in my own office or in small meetings. I will wear a mask in meetings with several people.
What Type of Mask Do I Wear?
My preferences for masks have changed as I’ve learned more about what kind of masks work best. For now, I like child or adult (depends on the brand) KN95s. They seem to stay in place the best on my face and let me talk without disruption. I like the multi-color packs to add a little pizazz. And lastly, I wear my mask with pride. Even if I am the only person in a setting, I know my reasons and I am proud. I am proud to have made it to this point. I am proud to have navigated my family here. I’m also proud that we are all figuring out what the future will hold and adjusting our masking to get there.
About Kara Ayers: Kara is a mother of three and lives in Ohio. She is an associate professor at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center. In 2021, Kara spoke to the Biden-Harris COVID-19 Equity Taskforce about the need for people with disabilities to access the COVID-19 vaccine. Click here to learn more about Kara.
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