The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health officials recommend that people wear masks in public settings as a way to slow transmission of the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. While mask-wearing may be new to most of us, doctors have been wearing medical-grade N95 or surgical masks (which offer more protection than do cloth masks) during surgeries or patient interactions as part of their daily routines, for many decades.
We recently spoke to several Yale Medicine doctors about the medical reasons why they wear masks. They are protective on several levels, explains Manisha Juthani, MD, an infectious disease specialist. “It is really important for me to wear a mask when I'm taking care of patients who have a respiratory virus that I could be at risk of getting and then potentially giving to somebody else.” In fact, the only way she can treat patients with different infectious diseases is by wearing a medical-grade mask so she does not spread any disease or get sick herself.
David Mulligan, MD, chief of transplant surgery and immunology, knows the importance of masks even beyond the operating room. “When we make rounds, for example, on significantly immuno-compromised patients, we will have a mask on to try to help protect those patients from the spread of disease and to try to protect other patients from bringing potential pathogens like bacteria and viruses from one room to the next,” he says.
Hear their explanations on why mask-wearing is important for doctors in this video.