The bus conductor beckoned me to get onto the bus, as he shouted his destination. I hurriedly got on board and was about my own business. About five minutes into the journey, the man seated next to me coughed.
Initially, I wasn’t bothered in the least because he was wearing his nose mask and there was social distancing.
But I recalled that there was no social distancing in our buses anymore since buses have been allowed to load passengers up to capacity.
He coughed a couple of times more and I lifted my head to take a look at him. Yes, he wore a nose mask, but on his chin. I looked all around me and realized that out of about 23 people in the bus, only two of us wore the nose mask to cover our noses and mouths. Most wore it either on their chin or to cover their mouths only. Leaving their chin bare.
I started observing how people used nose masks afterwards. I realised some people wear masks to cover their mouths and nose alright but will bring it down to their chin when they want to receive a phone call or talk to their friends. Others also wore the mask to cover their mouth, but exposing their nose.
As far as the knowledge about the disease is concerned, public health experts say droplets from an infected person may contain the virus and is the means of spread from person to person. These droplets are sprayed out when we talk or shout, sneeze, or cough.
Thus, when you’re wearing your nose mask and someone sneezes or coughs you have already protected yourself. And if an infected person talks, shouts, or coughs, while wearing a mask, he or she protects others since the cloth mask will protect the people around him or her.
It is therefore not appropriate to remove the mask when you want to talk to someone or receive a phone call in public. You will rather expose yourself to the virus or expose others to it in case you are infected.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that masks are an additional step to help slow the spread of COVID-19 when combined with every day preventive actions and social distancing in public settings.
The everyday preventive health habits are; staying at least 6 feet away from others, avoiding contact with people who are sick, washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds each time, or using alcohol based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
The mask must be appropriately placed over the nose and mouth and secured under the chin. Try to fit it snugly against the sides of your face and make sure you can breathe easily. If your mask is too tight that you cannot breathe, it may not be appropriate.
In the setting where we live, physical distancing is not always feasible. Especially in our buses, market places, bus stations among others. Measures must be put in place to ensure that people adhere to and wear masks to protect themselves and others around them.
In public places, it must be strictly enforced. One cannot see the coronavirus. Meaning one cannot see or know the particular point in time when one may come into contact with it. If you wear your mask on your chin and someone coughs or sneezes, you may have already inhaled the droplets before quickly using your mask.
Let us do well to protect others even as we protect ourselves. The virus has no legs or hands, it is we that move the virus.
Written By: Maame Kessewah Addo (RD., MSc Clinical Trials)