To mask or not to mask: Why Wilkes will mask on campus

Following the announcement that Wilkes will be holding in-person classes this upcoming fall semester, many changes in protocol have been announced. The University is considering practicing various ways to curb the spread of COVID-19, with the most controversial being mask-wearing.

The topic of wearing a face mask or not has become a heated issue in the United States, especially regarding its effectiveness. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) maintain its usefulness, explaining that “face mask coverings may slow the spread of the virus, and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.”

The CDC has explained that the disease can “spread mainly from person to person, mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.”

Wilkes University biology professor Debra Chapman has encouraged the use of masks. 

“Think about it, if everyone wears masks, it would make sense that the risk of infection by COVID-19 is decreased,” Chapman said. “The mask is certainly better than nothing.”

The sudden requirement of wearing masks has led to strong opposition, citing claims of ineffectiveness and causes of harm to the wearer. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been debunking these popular myths and rumors regarding the possible cons of mask-wearing.

A debated rumor is that the wearer can suffer from CO2 intoxication (the gas we exhale) or oxygen deficiency (the gas we breathe in). Additionally, other claims have risen regarding those with breathing problems being exempt from mask-wearing in buildings. The WHO has refuted these, stating that masks should be tight and snug around the face, but loose enough to be able to breathe properly.

“The prolonged use of medical masks can be uncomfortable,” the WHO said. “However, it does not lead to CO2 intoxication nor oxygen deficiency.”

If one is in need of a mask, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) has offered directions on how to make a homemade fabric mask, and can be found at The materials needed are fabric (preferably 100 percent cotton), elastic or fabric ties, scissors and a sewing machine or needle and thread. 

Chapman also recommends a few tricks to ensure a proper face mask, including “using material such as that used for flannel pajamas or 600-count pillowcases.” Coffee filters worn within bandanas or scarves are not as effective as cloth masks in capturing and blocking air particles, according to Chapman. 

“To determine if the cloth mask may be effective, hold the mask up to a light,” Chapman said. “If you can see through the mask, it probably won’t work that well in filtering out microscopic particles.”

However, if one is unable to make his or her own mask, reusable cloth masks are available to purchase online from sellers on websites such as Etsy or Amazon.

For anyone wary or hesitant on wearing a mask, the DOH wishes to reassure the public by saying: “My mask protects you, my mask protects me.”

Although face masks are effective against the virus, other simple measures can be taken for extra precaution.

When it is possible, social distancing between others at a distance of at least six feet, or two arms’ length apart, can prevent infected droplets from reaching others. These practices apply to anyone who is sick, even if they are in your home. Social distancing while outside is especially important, as some infected people may not show symptoms.

Another factor in staying healthy includes maintaining healthy levels of stress in order to boost the immune system. Although this may be difficult in the upcoming compressed semester, students should make sure to follow a balanced schedule of finishing homework and getting enough hours of sleep every night.

These practices, especially mask-wearing, are important due to the lack of a vaccine for COVID-19. The public itself is responsible for preventing the spread of the contagious virus. 

As a result, we must work together and cooperate with each other to prevent this illness from harming each other. As the CDC states, “the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus.”