Local Docs: Mask up!

Thursday, August 20, 2020
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Masks have taken center stage as we enter the sixth month of COVID-19 in Montana.

In the early days of the pandemic, the use of masks was not widely promoted, leaving many citizens to question the usefulness of them when public health, state and national government seemingly changed tunes — not only recommending masks, but mandating them in all public schools.

The idea of children having to wear masks has evoked strong reaction from many parents.

According to local physicians David Kane and Rick Klee, there is good reason for the change and nothing for parents to be worried about.

“As far as I am concerned, once we realized how this virus is spread, maskwearing has been recommended or even mandated. This hasn’t changed in months,” Klee told News earlier this week. “This is a public health issue, just like having to wear shirts and shoes into a restaurant, or not being able to smoke in public. There is absolutely no difference. We now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that universal mask wearing significantly reduces the spread of this disease. If parents want their children to attend in-person school this year, mask wearing is a must.”

Kane feels as strongly about the issue. “We (the medical staff) all discuss these issues frequently, if not daily. We totally agree with the position of mask wearing in school. This is a must,” said Kane. “The best way to fight this virus is to prevent its spread. Masks are not perfect, but combined with distancing and hand washing, make our odds of contracting COVID-19 much lower and thus decrease the odds of spreading the virus to others. It’s that simple.”

To illustrate his point, Kane said that every fall, the clinic sees a surge of sick kids, parents and family members approximately two to three weeks into the school year.

Kane said that last year, Influenza was the virus with Stillwater County being the first county in the state with an influenza outbreak in early September.

As a result, there were several hospitalizations.

“This influenza out break stayed with us until we had the Stay-At-Home order for COVID. Then with the masks, social distancing and hand washing, the influenza numbers dropped off the map,” said Kane. “I shutter to think of a similar substantial outbreak with COVID-19.”

Klee addressed concerns parents might have about their children wearing masks during the day for school.

“Masks are not unhealthy for our kids to wear. There is absolutely no evidence that they cause lower oxygen levels, or carbon dioxide accumulation. It will be a very rare child that would need a mask exemption,” said Klee. “I have a fair amount of kids in my practice, and I’ve not had a single one of them complain about having to wear a mask while in our clinic. I can’t say the same thing for all of my adult patients.”

Kane and Klee each noted the work that has been done by County Health Nurse Natasha Sailer and the Public Health Officer Dr. Cody White during the past several months — both of whom have taken heavy criticism.

“Our public health department is small, but has done a fantastic job with the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. White and Natasha have put in countless hours of work and have had the medical staffs backing 100 percent through out this crisis and now,” said Kane.

Kane encourages all residents to wear masks and keep up on social distancing and hand-washing to keep COVID-19 from spreading throughout the county.

“A few people can’t do it alone. It takes a community effort or the effort of the public to come together and do what is right to fight this battle,” said Kane. “We truly have an opportunity to do something for the greater good. Let’s all do our part.”

Masks are not perfect, but combined with distancing and hand washing, make our odds of contracting COVID-19 much lower and thus decrease the odds of spreading the virus to others. It’s that simple.”

-Dr. David Kane