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Are masks still necessary as public spaces reopen and health orders are lifted?

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Posted at 6:27 AM, Jun 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-15 08:21:31-04

MILWAUKEE — Until the pandemic hit, you would typically only see masks in places like doctor's office and hospitals. Now, they're everywhere.

Some states, like Illinois, require people to wear masks in public when social distancing isn't possible.

Masks are not mandated in Wisconsin. However, businesses, like Menards and Costco, are not letting customers inside their stores without wearing one.

To hear all sides of this issue, let's go 360. TMJ4's Ryan Jenkins spoke with a doctor, a health commissioner and to regular, everyday people who are both for and against masks.

"I don't leave the house without it," said Michael Nuenfeldt, who has pretty strong feelings about mask wearing. "I know they say things are getting better and things are opening up but you still have to be safe."

Not everyone feels masks are needed while out in public.

"I feel pretty comfortable going out without a mask," said Mawaysi Martin. "Me and my son were tested so, I feel comfortable going out."

James Thomas also chooses to go into public without a mask in most cases.

"To be frank and honest with you - everybody is different," said Thomas. "My immune system is pretty much high."

But, Milwaukee's Commissioner of Health says wearing a mask in public is critical in preventing the spread of COVID-19 as public spaces reopen.

"Wearing a mask is a courtesy in many ways," said Dr. Jeanette Kowalik. She said masks help prevent you from breathing in the virus and help stop you from unknowingly spreading it.

"Some people have it, they think they're fine and they could be spreading it to other people," said Dr. Kowalik.

Pulmonologist Dr. Julie Biller at Froedtert Hospital agrees.

"The science points to the benefits of wearing a mask and very few negatives or side effects to wearing a mask," said Dr. Biller. "There are probably some very unique, small numbers of people who may have underlying lung diseases where reflecting the flow of air, oxygen and carbon dioxide, could cause problems but those would be very rare cases."

In recent weeks, wearing a mask also became politicized. President Trump won't wear one in public, while some people mocked presidential candidate Joe Biden for wearing his to an event.

"The mask has become an emblem and for some it makes a statement about 'hey I believe this virus is a threat and I'm protecting myself," said Psychiatrist Dr. David Cipriano, an associate professor of psychology at The Medical College of Wisconsin. "For others, it's 'I don't know that this is as big of an issue as everyone's makes it out to be."

Debra Becwar doesn't wear a mask because a person she knows and trusts warned her that bacteria would form in the mask, which she worries could cause infections different from the virus.

"I've made a conscious decision that I'll try to be more careful when I'm out walking around," said Becwar.

In addition to "why" wear a mask, there are also questions about "which" mask to wear.

The N-95 mask should be fit tested and is critical for first responders and health care professionals.

The surgical mask is ideal for people who are involved in more direct service.

Then, there are cloth masks, which can be washed and re-used. Bandannas that fit snug on the face are also effective.

The key to any mask is ensuring it fits snug on your face and covers your nose and mouth completely.

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