Polls show increased support for masks as country heads into flu season

By Michael Kinney

As the United States enters its seventh month of the Coronavirus Pandemic, public support seems to be shifting when it comes to the importance of facial coverings, according to results from a media survey in Oklahoma.

The survey asked 563 likely voters in Comanche County if they approve or disapprove of mandating the wearing of masks while in public places. While 71.4 percent (402) of those surveyed approved of the mandate, 56 percent strongly approved.

These results did not surprise Meagan Garibay, who is a Registered Nurse and Board Certified Infection Preventionist at Comanche County Memorial Hospital. She has seen a change in the attitudes concerning wearing facial coverings.

“I think that from what I’ve seen on social media, I think that the majority of people are supportive of it. I think the majority of people that don’t support it probably they don’t understand the why behind the mandate,” Garibay said. “They don’t understand the purpose of masks or how masks help protect the general population from COVID or from any other number of respiratory illnesses.”

As an Infection Preventionist, it is Garibay’s job to prevent the spread of infectious viruses and dieses to other patients and staff inside CCMH. She has been doing the job since 2015.

Garibay says swearing a mask is not really intended to protect the person from getting the virus. It protects them from giving it to others, which is why the majority of the population needs to follow the mask mandates.

“It’s actually for what we call force control. So it’s actually protecting others from you,” Garibay said. “When you talk, when you cough, when you sneeze, when you laugh, when you’ve seen things like that, all dispel respiratory droplets into the air. If somebody is in the immediate vicinity next to you, they could breathe those droplets in.”

According to the Ledger survey, 15.3 percent of the people are strongly against the mask mandate while 8.3 percent are somewhat against it.

Garibay says people who are against the mask mandate don’t believe they should be told what to do. However, when wearing facial coverings was a voluntary act, Garibay explained, a small portion of the population chose to use them.

“So, unfortunately, to protect the population in general,” Garibay said, “they chose to do the mask mandate so that more people would be protected.”

While the 71 percent approval could be seen as high, it still trails most national polls and surveys.

In late August, the PR Newswire conducted a national poll on mask mandates. Its results showed that 80 percent of those polled approve of their local and state government requiring everyone in their community to wear a mask when in public. A little more than 78 percent would approve of the federal government having a mask requirement.

The numbers would be higher is people understood exactly how masks can protect their communities from the spread of COVID-19. Bu Garibay says misinformation has caused a distrust in the information that is being put out.

That includes the science community as well.

 “I think there’s also, for whatever reason, I think there’s a general distrust of maybe the scientific community right now,” Garibay said. “That’s the problem with watching science evolve in real time, like it is with COVID. What was true yesterday may not be true today just because there’s so many people doing so much research into what COVID is, what makes it tick, how we can treat it, how we can prevent it I really think that people have just decided that nobody knows what they’re talking about, so they’re not going to believe anything that anybody says.”

As the nation moves along through 2020, there are many theories on what is going to happen in the future as far as stopping the spread of COVID-19. With no available vaccine on the market or any other proven medication that can slow the effects, that leaves social distancing, washing hands and wearing facial coverings as still the top options to control the virus.

However, flu season around the corner, that could add another obstacle to the already mounting problems.

That is why Garibay is asking residents to not only continue to wear their mask, but also get a flu shot before the end of October.

“I think that there’s a lot of uncertainty around how flu season is going to go this year. I mean, flu season is always kind of unpredictable anyway,” Garibay said. “It’s just kind of a wild card scenario because we don’t know truly the impact that flu season will have with COVID going on simultaneously. So I think that that’s the question that, unfortunately, we’re just going to have to live through the flu season to see which way it goes.”

Story & Photo by Michael Kinney/Michael Kinney Media

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