Guest Column

Here’s a proven way to prevent the spread of coronavirus

By , Guest Columnist Updated: May 14, 2020 4:24 PM CT | Published: May 14, 2020 3:08 PM CT
Scott Strome
Guest Columnist

Scott Strome

Dr. Scott Strome is the Robert Kaplan Executive Dean of the College of Medicine and vice chancellor for clinical affairs at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

Altha Stewart
Guest Columnist

Altha Stewart

Dr. Altha Stewart is the senior associate dean for Community Health Engagement in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

Manoj Jain
Guest Columnist

Manoj Jain

Dr. Manoj Jain is an infectious disease consultant at Baptist Memorial Hospital and Methodist Hospitals in Memphis. He is also a clinical associate professor at the University of Tennessee-Memphis and the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta.

News flash! We have a way to prevent the transmission and spread of coronavirus. It’s not some fancy laboratory test. It’s not some new-fangled treatment strategy. It’s the time-tested approach of wearing a mask to prevent infection.

You should wear a face mask, and here’s how to do it

Indeed, if all of us take appropriate precautions, including social distancing (6 feet to be exact), hand washing (at least 10 times a day), and wearing a facial covering such as a mask, we could rapidly open many of our businesses and prevent COVID-19-associated deaths. 

Sadly, the majority among us are not practicing such appropriate and necessary “social hygiene.” From Beale Street to the aisles of several of our large retail stores, many are not honoring the social contract associated with Phase 1 of the reopening.

If we as a community choose not to properly wear face coverings, social distance, and wash our hands, there is no plan that will allow the safe reopening of Memphis.

Properly wearing a mask means placing a breathable barrier over your nose and mouth. Covering just your mouth, removing your mask to talk, wearing it like an accessory around your neck, or carrying it in your handbag or pocket won’t do the trick.

You must cover your mouth and nose with the mask for it to be effective. Yes, it is annoying. Yes, it causes your glasses to fog. Yes, it makes communication more difficult. And yes, it stops the spread of disease.

Health officer: Both employees and customers must wear masks

But, you argue, I don’t have a mask. But, you argue, wearing a mask makes me look suspicious to authorities and increases the possibility that I may be detained. But, you argue, no one else is wearing a mask, so why should I? None of these statements are truly wrong, nor are they fully right.

What absolutely is true is that all masks provide some protection from virus-bearing droplets released when we speak, breathe or cough. What is true is that we can use the normalized wearing of masks as a catalyst for improved communication and trust. What is true is that the actions of others do not define best strategies for prevention of COVID-19.

Thus, we ask — no, we plead with you — wear a mask — a mask that unlike the masks of old now stands for civic pride, a mask that represents social justice, a mask that is a simple gesture to acknowledge our compassion for the health and welfare of all members of our community.

Editor’s Note: The Daily Memphian is making our coronavirus coverage accessible to all readers — no subscription needed. Our journalists continue to work around the clock to provide you with the extensive coverage you need; if you can subscribe, please do


Face Masks coronavirus COVID face coverings COVID-19


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