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As we watch the numbers of COVID-19 cases in Texas rise, it is important to emphasize what we ourselves can do to minimize the spread of this virus. 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Masks are the key. 

You might be thinking, “Here we go again. I’ve heard this a million times,” and I get it. This message may be getting old, but we keep repeating it because it’s important. Because it makes a difference. And because not everyone is doing his or her part to wear a mask and help stop the spread in our communities.

Some may think they don’t need to wear a mask because they’re healthy and not experiencing symptoms, so there’s no risk of spreading to others. However, there are a few flaws in that line of thinking. 

First, you could be asymptomatic, meaning you have COVID-19 but simply don’t know, or presymptomatic, meaning you haven’t developed symptoms yet. In fact, researchers found an estimated 40-45 percent of COVID-19 infections are asymptomatic but still contagious. 

Second, it turns out that wearing a mask can also protect the wearer from inhaling infectious droplets. 

It has been widely known and publicized that when those who have contracted the coronavirus wear a mask, they help prevent the spread to others. But over the past few months, many have wondered, does it work the other way, too? Can wearing a mask help protect you from getting sick?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced that yes, face masks work both directions — for the person wearing the mask and for those around them. So, even if you’re not concerned about spreading the virus, wearing a mask can lower your own chances of contracting it as well.

The CDC quoted a study that concluded that if we all wore masks, the spread of the virus could decrease by 70%. In separate studies, hair stylists and airplane travelers with COVID-19 did not transmit the virus if everyone in the area wore masks.

The CDC goes on to stress that “adopting universal masking policies can help prevent future lockdowns.” Vigilant masking has the potential to not only prevent lockdowns, but also to improve our economy and help get us back to the normal socializing and activities that we all miss.

Anytime you set foot outside your home, are in a public setting or are around other people who are not part of your household, a face mask is a must — even if you are only there for a few minutes.

So, what types of masks are recommended? The CDC has shared advice for choosing, wearing and cleaning your mask for optimal protection. Visit these CDC resources for more information.

It’s time to mask up, Texas. We are not defenseless against this virus, but it is up to each of us to do our part to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our neighbors.

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