As the number of COVID cases continue to dramatically increase, I have been pleased to see more people wearing masks but alarmed at how many are not wearing them correctly. A primary entry point of the virus is through the nasal neuroepithelium. This probably accounts for the common loss of smell as an early symptom of COVID.
The multiplication of the virus in the nasal cavity also results in significant spreading through nasal exhalation. When masks do not cover the nose, they provide significantly less protection to the wearer and to those around them. The more transmissible variant that is rapidly becoming more prevalent will likely exacerbate this risk.
During the next few months, until a large percentage of the population has been vaccinated, masks will continue to be the first line of protection for all of us, but they must be worn properly to be effective. Please wear masks whenever in public and please wear them properly — cover both your mouth AND your nose both for your own benefit, for those around you, and for the healthcare workers who are being overwhelmed by this pandemic.
Sam West MD