How protective is wearing a face mask, and why do some choose to wear it while others don’t? Producer AJ Walker and community journalist Daijah Moss take to the streets for American Black Journal to talk with Detroiters about their thoughts on wearing a mask to protect against COVID-19. They hear from residents who choose to wear a mask to protect against other diagnoses or comorbidities, residents who feared getting the virus because then they couldn’t work or go to school, and some residents who felt protected from the virus without a mask.

Plus, they sit down with the State of Michigan’s Chief Medical Executive Natasha Bagdasarian to talk about the Omicron variant surge, when and where people should mask up, and what types of masks will provide the most protection.

Full Transcript:

Annissa Tuft, Clinton Township Resident: N95.

Annissa Tuft: Another little disposable one. And this is my shield. I always wear it when I go to the bathroom and like busy places.

Kendyl Johnson, Clinton Township Resident: The LOL mask is my favorite.

AJ Walker: Before Annissa Tuft heads out, she makes sure she and her daughter, Kendyl have their masks. She has lupus and is also visually impaired, so she makes sure that even if people around her are not masking up, they do.

AJ Walker: According to the CDC, people with underlying health conditions are more likely to get severely ill from COVID 19. That’s why Frank McGhee says he wears his mask indoors around other people.

Frank McGhee, Detroit Resident: I have type two diabetes. I’ve also had a struggle with asthma and bronchitis as a kid, and so quite naturally, I’m more likely prone to contracting the virus even if I’m vaccinated and I get sick. The truth of the matter is the mask really gives you the edge, and it may not be cool looking to some people, but to me, I’m confident that I’ll be safe.

AJ Walker: Although there is currently no statewide requirement to wear a face mask in most settings, the state of Michigan does recommend that you wear one. Natasha Bagdasarian, Chief Medical Executive with the state of Michigan says COVID rates are higher than they were this time last year, and there are several things to consider when deciding if you will wear a mask.

Natasha Bagdasarian, Chief Medical Executive, State of Michigan: Michigan is at high transmission really around the state. We’re seeing a lot of transmissions. We’re seeing our percent positivity being much higher than we’d like. We know that there is COVID transmission occurring in the community more than we would like there to be. And the CDC and MDHHS recommend wearing a mask when you’re in an indoor setting with people outside of your household, and that’s regardless of whether you’re vaccinated or not.

AJ Walker: And with the winter weather and holiday season approaching, masks should be a part of your planning.

Natasha Bagdasarian: As people gather around the holidays as people come together and spend more time indoors, there are usually increases in our COVID rates after those holidays. So we’re going into the holiday season with a higher rate at baseline and not just that with the colder weather. So not only does that drive people indoors into spaces that are not as well ventilated, but also we do see other respiratory viruses circulating at this time. So things like influenza and RSV.

AJ Walker: Some people say they get nervous around people who are not wearing masks.

Melinda Billingsley, Detroit Resident: I don’t like it. It makes me very nervous. I get up at like 6:30 in the morning so that I am at the grocery store when the doors open, because that is the place I see lots of people without masks and I’m just like, no, not for me. Honestly, when I can’t avoid it and I’m in places where there are a lot of masses, people in the back of my head at all times, I’m thinking like, oh my god, what if I get COVID from this? Like, I won’t be able to work. I have to take my kid out of school. I’ll have to call everyone I know to say, hey, you’ve been exposed.

AJ Walker: But not everyone feels this way. We noticed Tyrone Hammond making a quick stop to a nearby store without his mask.

AJ Walker: ] What made you go into the store without your mask today?

Tyrone Hammond, Detroit Resident: I feel safe and I have a zip up hoodie, I can cover my face like this but yeah. I mean as long as I stay six feet away from people I’m good to go.

AJ Walker: He also says he thinks it’s up to a place of business to make sure their patrons have a mask.

Tyrone Hammond: Usually stores, some stores, I know last year they was handing them out. Right now, no, I don’t see no stores handing out masks no more.

AJ Walker: Was it helpful to you when the stores would hand the masks out to you?

Tyrone Hammond: I believe it was helpful, but I still feel the same. I never caught COVID or nothing.

Betty Wright, Detroit Resident: It’s very inconsiderate of the others because not everyone is vaccinated, you know what I mean. So if you don’t have your mask on and I’m not vaccinated, you giving me a bigger risk for getting it already.

AJ Walker: Betty Wright says she waits until right before she enters a store before she puts on her mask. But she says she always wears one.

Betty Wright: So I put it on, and then when I came out, I took it off. It’s a little phobia for me to keep having it on all the time.

AJ Walker: And do you always wear your face mask in stores and all that?

Betty Wright: Yes.

AJ Walker: And why do you do that?

Betty Wright: Because I don’t want to get sick. I don’t want to get sick at all.

AJ Walker: While there are many different types of face masks to choose from, Bagdasarian says your selection should come down to these basic considerations.

Natasha Bagdasarian: Any sort of masks that you may be using, the two things to look for are filtration and fit. So for filtration, make sure that it’s a multi-layered mask and those small particles can’t get through too easily and for fit, make sure that it fits close to your nose and the sides of your face.


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