Masking up in Chicago heat? Woman explains why she wasn't wearing one
Summer heat has hit Chicago, Illinois, prompting medical experts to emphasize the use of face masks during the heat wave in early July.
Health officials are continuing to urge people to wear face masks as both summer heat and the coronavirus pandemic continue to escalate.
Chicago has been one of the hardest-hit cities for both coronavirus cases and a recent surge of summer warmth. The city has recorded more than a dozen days on which the temperature has reached 90 F or higher this year, according to the National Weather Service, making for the seventh-hottest start to summer on record there.
On Tuesday, forecasters were calling for Chicago to have a high temperature of 92 F and an AccuWeather RealFeel® of 101. Temperatures will dip slightly close to normal in the coming days, with highs in the middle and upper 80s, but it will still be warm in the city, making mask-wearing that much more unappealing for many.
More than 53,600 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the Windy City, with more than 147,800 in Illinois overall, according to the city of Chicago.
Demonstrators wear masks as they listen to a speech during the Health Care Justice demonstration at the Douglas Park in Chicago, Saturday, June 27, 2020. Chicago nurses, healthcare workers and community activists united to protest racism in the healthcare industry and demand one, excellent standard of care for all people. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Despite the stifling conditions outdoors, experts say people should still be wearing masks, even if the heat makes it more uncomfortable.
"It's really important that people remain vigilant and realize that we are still in the middle of a pandemic. The coronavirus is in our community and we have to be extra careful," Dr. Steven Aks, an emergency room physician at Cook County Health, told Karen Jordan of ABC in Chicago.
According to Aks, scientists are still learning more about the coronavirus as it continues to develop and spread throughout the country. A new scientific study suggests that the coronavirus could linger in the air for hours, meaning that mask-wearing could prevent the spread of the virus, especially in closed, poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
The problem, experts say, especially with the start of summer, is the lack of compliance to mask-wearing in outdoor spaces. Some people argue that it is not necessary, as there is more space and large crowds are less likely to form.
A shopper wears a face mask for safety against the coronavirus as she leaves a department store in Westfield Old Orchard Mall in Skokie, Ill., Thursday, June 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
"Now we're getting a little more non-crowded, so we'll probably put them on," an unidentified woman, who was not wearing a mask, told Jordan in an interview. "But if it's fresh air and you're not close, I'd rather have the fresh air."
However, public officials and health experts say mask-wearing shouldn't come down to personal preference. They say the safety of yourself and those around you is of greater importance.
"It's for my safety and it's for other people's safety, so whatever I need to do to stay safe especially with the coronavirus going on, I don't mind," Necia Stallworth told Jordan.
As cases continue to trend upward across the country, some cities and states are making mask-wearing a requirement.
In Chicago, children who started summer camp at The Chicago Park District were required to wear masks to participate.
Administrators at the summer camp say they are making sure the kids stay hydrated and are not outside for an extended period of time.
"At 90-degree temperature, it does get a little bit more difficult to breathe with a mask, so we try to limit it and change up the events for the day," said Alonzo Williams of the Chicago Park District.
Health experts advise using a more breathable cotton mask in a lighter color if you plan to be outside for long periods of time and to carry extra in case of sweat. There are several tips for making a home-made mask and trying to stay cool that people can follow. And last week, researchers from Florida Atlantic University released the results of a study they conducted showing which types of homemade masks work best. According to their findings, masks made from quilted cotton did the best job of blocking the spread of aerosol droplets expelled by simulated coughs and sneezes.
A bicyclist wears a face mask while negotiating signs used to cordon off a block of Larimer Street from thru-traffic so at least a dozen restaurants can expand service to the street because of the new coronavirus, Thursday, June 18, 2020, in downtown Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Also, don't get hung up on debunked myths about face masks, experts caution.
One myth has been circulating suggesting that masks can lower oxygen levels, especially during outdoor activities. However, an experiment done by South Carolina Dr. Megan Hall showed a different reality.
“Scientific studies are showing that there's no real important changes in C02 levels or oxygen levels even from wearing surgical masks. And fabric masks have better permeation for gases,” Hall told NBC's Today show.
After Arizona saw a surge in coronavirus cases, many counties and cities mandated a mask requirement as well, which included the city of Phoenix.
States such as Washington, Pennsylvania and New York have mandated mask-wearing in indoor areas or areas where social distancing isn't possible.
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