Doctor: Face masks among best ways to stop COVID spread

DANVILLE — Wearing a mask is one of the most effective ways to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in the community, the director of Geisinger’s Division of Infectious Diseases said during a recent video-recorded interview.

"We can actually impact the spread of the virus in the community setting by wearing masks," Dr. Stanley Martin said in an exclusive One on One interview.  

Martin also said the country was ill-prepared to combat the virus due to a lack of sufficient tests and still does not have adequate testing material.

He said that prior to COVID-19, there wasn't much science to show face masks' effectiveness in the community. 

"We know masks could help prevent the spread of viruses in a hospital, but could the same thing happen in a hardware store?" he said. "We didn't have much science to understand that."

Since the spread of COVID, doctors have had to look at that more closely and since then have found that wearing a mask in public was effective, as well.

Still, he understands the reluctance by many to wear a mask in public and to social distance.

"I think we all are kind of suffering from what I like to call COVID fatigue," Martin said.

That, along with some early success in Pennsylvania in curtailing the spread had led people to not want to take precautions, he said.

"These are the facts," Martin said. "If somebody just made up their mind and is gonna believe in the tooth fairy, I can't convince them the tooth fairy isn't real."

He added, "You're not wearing the mask for yourself, you're wearing it for other people."

He said someone may be young and healthy and not care if they are infected, but if they become infected, they will pass it on to two or three other people. One of those people is not going to do so well, could end up the hospital and even die.

"We all want to go to the pool party with 50 other people, but at the end of the day, that's ultimately going to make everything worse for everybody," Martin said.

Martin also said there should be more testing for COVID and should have been early on in the pandemic.

"As a country, we were not prepared," he said. "We didn't have enough tests available. We still don't have enough for surveillance testing."

He said that in theory, if everyone could be tested every few days and everyone wore a mask and social-distanced, "We could eliminate this virus in no time."

He said whether students are safe from the virus in school ultimately depends on the number of cases in a community and if everyone follows precautions.

Martin said there will continue to be fluctuations of the virus until there is a vaccine, which likely won't come until next spring or summer.

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