Wear masks, Michigan Medicine leaders tell public as hospitalizations surge

ANN ARBOR, MI — Michigan Medicine leaders are calling on the public to not let its guard down as hospitals across the state experience rapid surges in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

It’s imperative Michigan caregivers stay healthy so they can take care of an expected surge in cases this winter, Marschall Runge, Michigan Medicine CEO and dean of the University of Michigan’s medical school, said in a Thursday, Nov. 18 news conference that also announced a joint nationwide campaign to encourage mask wearing.

Michigan Medicine has joined around 100 of the nation’s top health care systems in the #MaskUp campaign, which urges all Americans to mask up, in an effort to slow the surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Runge said.

A large surge in cases requiring hospitalizations for COVID-19 due to the lack of adherence to mitigation strategies has the potential to overwhelm health systems, said Laraine Washer, Michigan Medicine’s medical director of infection prevention and epidemiology.

“I’m very glad that we at Michigan Medicine are joining with healthcare systems nationwide to encourage the simple behaviors that are proven to work: Mask up, socially distance, wash your hands,” Washer said.

Like many other hospitals across the state, Michigan Medicine is facing short staffing, Runge said, adding the healthcare system is developing a plan to make sure it can provide necessary care.

“Given the widespread community transmission, hospitals are also managing staffing limitations due to employee illness, absences and responsibilities for childcare,” Washer said.

During the past three weeks, Michigan Medicine has seen an increase in COVID-19 patients, Runge said. This week alone, Michigan Medicine had as many as 75 COVID-19 positive patients at one time, with up to 20 of them being critically ill and requiring ICU care, officials said.

“Following the spring and early summer COVID surge — the first wave, so to speak — we resumed care of many non-COVID patients that need hospitalization, and our hospitals are about 90% full as a result,” Runge said. “With that high occupancy, which we did manage pre-COVID, that puts additional strain on our response to the pandemic.”

The health system’s testing capacity is approximately 10,000 COVID-19 tests per week, while its laboratories continue to develop new strategies to implement different types of COVID tests, officials said.

Michigan Medicine’s testing results recently showed about 14% of those tested are testing positive for COVID, well above the 5% mark reported for most of the summer months, Runge said.

“At Michigan Medicine, and all of Michigan’s healthcare providers, we need your help,” Runge said. “To combat a pandemic we need supplies, we need space and most importantly staff.”

The increased hospital capacity is putting a burden on the number of beds, as well as staff and healthcare providers, Runge said. A large surge of cases also carries a risk of challenging the amount of personal protective equipment required to keep healthcare workers safe, health officials said.

The number of confirmed cases in Michigan reached more than 277,800 this week, including 8,190 deaths.

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In Arizona, the coronavirus raged. With masks and other measures, it subsided. What can it teach America?

As temperatures in Arizona shot toward their summer peaks, so did the state’s coronavirus crisis. Lines for drive-up testing snaked for blocks in June. Hospitals were running out of beds, bodies were being stored in coolers, and the state’s per capita caseload topped global charts.



a man standing next to a car: Arizona Western College EMT Academy students Natus Humphrey, left, and Shayla Watson hand out coronavirus test kits Oct. 17 in Yuma, Ariz.


© Randy Hoeft/Yuma Sun/AP
Arizona Western College EMT Academy students Natus Humphrey, left, and Shayla Watson hand out coronavirus test kits Oct. 17 in Yuma, Ariz.

But by mid-August, the southwest hot spot made a remarkable reversal. Cases plummeted 75 percent.

Arizona has maintained relatively low case numbers since, but they are now creeping to levels seen just a few weeks before its summer surge. And as a conflagration engulfs the Midwest and Mountain West, public health experts and elected officials in Arizona are pleading with residents to maintain mitigation measures they say played a critical role in beating back the virus and hold lessons for other states — including mask mandates that covered 85 percent of the population.

“The mask ordinances should stay in place until we get pretty wide distribution of the vaccine,” said Will Humble, a former state health department director who now leads the Arizona Public Health Association. “The return on investment is off the charts. The only thing that it costs is political capital.”

That emphasis on face-coverings echoes intensifying calls by public health experts nationwide amid growing evidence of masks’ effectiveness in reducing transmission — and signs that a pandemic-weary population and battered economy may not tolerate widespread shutdowns.

Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, has been touring states and chiding those where mask use is low. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb have advocated for a national mask mandate. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has also urged mandates, recently calling mask-wearing and social distancing simple measures that may be “the next best thing” to lockdowns that are unlikely to be repeated.

Some local governments in hard-hit red states where masks have been especially contentious are heeding the call. In recent days, mandates were passed in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and the North Dakota cities of Bismarck and Grand Forks.

In Arizona, some jurisdictions are lifting mask mandates, fraying nerves among some observers who say such loosening is premature.

“I’m becoming more of a firm believer that face masks are a truly effective intervention in this particular outbreak and should be considered our first line of defense,” said Joe K. Gerald, a University of Arizona public health researcher who tracks coronavirus trends in the state. Places without them, he said, are “shooting themselves in the foot, because wearing face masks can protect individuals but also reduce the spread to others and allow more economic activity and social activity.”

Catch up on the biggest developments in the pandemic at the end of the day with our free coronavirus newsletter


chart, histogram: Newly diagnosed coronavirus cases in Arizona rose sharply in June, declined by August, and are now creeping up again. (Joe K. Gerald/University of Arizona)


Newly diagnosed coronavirus cases in Arizona rose sharply in June, declined

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Trick-or-treaters get masks, sanitizer with candy this year at Halloween block party in Kalamazoo

KALAMAZOO, MI — Trick-or-Treaters decked-out in costumes and face paint trudged down Krom Avenue in Kalamazoo on Saturday, where they were greeted by volunteers offering masks and hand sanitizer before passing out the treats.

While this year’s events looked a little different, the pandemic didn’t stop Charlie’s P.L.A.C.E. from hosting its annual Halloween block party in Kalamazoo’s Northside neighborhood Saturday, Oct. 31.

Hundreds of kids and their parents walked through an aisle of volunteers who passed out handfuls of candy, before leaving the block party stationed at Krom Avenue and Herbert Street, to continue their night knocking on the doors of houses on North Burdick Street.

With many homeowners deciding not to give out candy over concerns it could result in the spread of the coronavirus, Charlie’s P.L.A.C.E. said it wanted to offer kids a fun and safe Halloween. The organization is a nonprofit that provides education and entertainment programs and events for youths and their families. The organizations founder, Charles Parker, has been a longtime advocate for kids in Kalamazoo.

Charlie’s P.L.A.C.E. board member and Parker’s niece, TaKarra Dunning, wore colorful face paint while handing out candy to dozens of kids Saturday evening.

“We do this every year for the kids on Halloween, no matter what day of the week it’s on, it’s a tradition that my uncle Charles Parker wants to keep alive,” Dunning said. “We just had to make the adjustment for COVID — we haven’t been able to do much programming that we would usually do, so it’s just nice to be able to get out here on a nice Halloween Day.”

Dunning and others passed out masks and offered squirts of hand sanitizer to parents and their children before they were given candy and treats, while DJ Conscious provided music throughout the two-hour event.

Kalamazoo resident Samantha Drew came to the event on Saturday with her two children who have been attending school virtually this year at Kalamazoo Public Schools. Drew said that finding a few hours of fun for her two children to unwind and release some energy has been a challenge.

“Just yesterday I was like, ‘What are we going to do with these kids?’ I’m just thankful that these guys stepped up and did this thing,” Drew said. “They’ve been cooped up in the house doing online school and it really is hard on the kids.”

Drew wasn’t worried about the spread of the virus at Saturday’s outdoor block party, saying events that take the health and safety of everyone into account are important for her kids. She said safety mitigations should be taken seriously as she wants her kids to be able to safely get back to the district for in-person instruction.

“Safety I believe should be our number one — since we have to wear a mask to keep the disease from spreading, I believe we should all wear it, we all just want to be safe,” Drew said.

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Hartford judge hears testimony on safety of masks in schools as parents seek to block face coverings rule

A Hartford judge heard hours of testimony on the safety and efficacy of masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus Friday as he decides whether to grant an emergency injunction blocking a state requirement that students wear face coverings in schools.

In a daylong hearing on the injunction, Judge Thomas G. Moukawsher heard from both those downplaying the effectiveness of masks as well as those who said face coverings do not negatively impact children and slow the spread of the virus.

The hearing came several weeks after a group of parents and the CT Freedom Alliance sued the state’s education department and top officials to lift the requirement that children wear masks in schools out of fear of the harms they pose to children both mentally and physically.

The assertions in the lawsuit are in direct conflict with scientific evidence that shows that mask-wearing slows the spread of COVID-19. Lawyers for the state have argued there is no evidence to support the claim that masks are dangerous and that in fact masks are protecting students as they attend in-person classes.

Quick to send students home for virtual learning in the spring, Connecticut education officials outlined extensive measures to safely return students to school this fall. Key among those measures was a requirement that students and staff wear masks in school.

Moukawsher set Friday’s hearing to get testimony from two expert witnesses called by the plaintiffs, as well as the state’s witnesses, before ruling on the request for an injunction. The state has filed a motion to dismiss the case, which Moukawsher will address after the injunction.

Lawyers for the parents and CT Freedom Alliance first called on a Los Angeles-based psychiatrist, who said that masks can inhibit development, cause stress and led to other complications for children.

“I am greatly concerned by what I am seeing … children who are forced to wear masks in a school settings as well as outside the school settings are in imminent harm,” said Dr. Mark McDonald. McDonald also noted that the risk of oxygen deprivation can led to “permanent neurological damage in children, which we will not be able to address because the window will have passed.”

The state questioned McDonald’s beliefs in masks and the government response to the pandemic. McDonald said he believes that a healthy person confers no benefits to others when wearing a mask.

The plaintiff’s second witness, Knut Whittkowski, a New York-based epidemiologist with 35 years in the field, said he reviewed scores of studies and could not find evidence that masks were effective outside a health care setting.

“I went through all the literature I could find, and all the literature I was presented and I could not find convincing evidence on the effectiveness of surgery masks or bandannas or other masks worn in non-health care settings in general,” Whittkowski said. “And in particular, I couldn’t find evidence for the effectiveness of mask wearing by children.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and

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Wealthier hospitals stockpiling N95 masks leave nursing homes scrambling

Nursing homes, small physician offices and rural clinics are being left behind in the rush for N95 masks and other protective gear, exposing some of the country’s most vulnerable populations and their caregivers to COVID-19 while larger, wealthier health care facilities build equipment stockpiles.

Take Rhonda Bergeron, who owns three health clinics in rural southern Louisiana. She said she’s been desperate for personal protective equipment since her clinics became COVID testing sites. Her plight didn’t impress national suppliers puzzled by her lack of buying history when she asked for 500 gowns. And one supply company allows her only one box of 200 gloves per 30 days for her three clinics. Right now, she doesn’t have any large gloves on-site.

“So in the midst of the whole world shutting down, you can’t get PPE to cover your own employees,” she said. “They’re refilling stuff to larger corporations when realistically we are truly the front line here.”

More than eight months into the pandemic, health care leaders are again calling for a coordinated national strategy to distribute personal protective equipment to protect health care workers and their patients as a new wave of disease wells up across most of the country. The demand for such gear, especially in hot spots, can be more than 10 times the pre-pandemic levels. While supply chains have adjusted, and the availability of PPE has improved dramatically since the mayhem of the spring, limited factories and quantities of raw materials still constrain supply amid the ongoing high demand.

In this free-market scramble, larger hospitals and other providers are stockpiling what they can even while others struggle. Some facilities are scooping up supplies to prepare for a feared wave of COVID-19 hospitalizations; others are following new stockpiling laws and orders in states such as California, New York and Connecticut.

“They’re putting additional strain on what’s still a fragile hospital supply chain,” said Soumi Saha, vice president of advocacy for Premier Inc., a group-purchasing organization that procures supplies for over 4,000 U.S. hospitals and health systems of various sizes. “We want available product to go to front-line health care workers and not go into a warehouse right now.”

Related: A second surge of the coronavirus in the fall and winter could be catastrophic for the U.S. It’s not just more sick people that doctors worry about.

Over a quarter of nursing homes in the country reported a shortage of items such as N95 masks, gloves or gowns from Aug. 24 through Sept. 20. A recent survey from the American Medical Association found 36 percent of physician offices reported having a difficult time securing PPE. And about 90 percent of nonprofit Get Us PPE’s recent requests for help with protective gear have come from non-hospital facilities, such as nursing homes, group homes and homeless shelters.

“I can completely understand that large health systems don’t want to find themselves short on PPE,” said Dr. Ali Raja, co-founder of Get Us PPE and executive vice chairman of emergency medicine at

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Masks Good, Ventilation Better at Cutting COVID Risk at Indoor Events: Study | Top News

BERLIN (Reuters) – Face masks and limits on numbers are important, but good ventilation technology is the most essential ingredient of all in reducing the risk of the coronavirus spreading at public events indoors, according to a German study.

And researchers say the study’s results have implications for containing the epidemic among the broader population too.

Around 1,500 volunteers with face masks, hand sanitiser and proximity trackers attended an indoor pop-concert in Leipzig in August to assess how the virus spreads in large gatherings.

Reseachers simulated three scenarios with varying numbers of spectators and social-distancing standards, and created a computer model of the arena to analyse the flow of aerosols from infected virtual spectators.

“The most important finding for us was understanding how crucial it is to have good ventilation technology. This is key to lowering the risk of infection,” said Stefan Moritz, leader of the RESTART-19 study at the University Medical School in Halle.

The study also found that reducing venue capacity, having multiple arena entrances and seating spectators can have a major impact on the number of contacts people accumulate.

Its recommendations include only allowing food to be eaten at seats, open-air waiting areas, mask-wearing for the concert’s duration and employing stewards to make sure people stick to hygiene rules.

Researchers also developed an epidemiological model to analyse the impact of staging an event on the spread of the virus among the broader population.

They found hygiene measures such as mask-wearing and social-distancing should remain in place as long as the pandemic persists, while seating plans and number of guests should be adjusted based on the incidence of the virus.

“Events have the potential to fuel the epidemic by spreading pathogens, but if a hygiene concept is stuck to then the risk is very low,” said Rafael Mikolajczyk, from Halle University’s Institute for Medical Epidemiology.

The study’s results have not yet been peer-reviewed.

(Reporting by Caroline Copley; editing by John Stonestreet)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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South Dakota medical groups promote masks, countering Noem

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota’s largest medical organizations on Tuesday launched a joint effort to promote mask-wearing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as the state suffers through one of the nation’s worst outbreaks, a move that countered Gov. Kristi Noem’s position of casting doubt on the efficacy of wearing face coverings in public.

As the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 have multiplied in recent weeks, the Republican governor has tried to downplay the severity of the virus, highlighting that most people don’t die from COVID-19. Noem, who has staked out a reputation for keeping her state free from federal government mandates to stem the virus’ spread, has repeatedly countered the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations to wear face coverings in public.

Shortly after the Department of Health reported that the number of hospitalizations from COVID-19 broke records for the third straight day on Tuesday, people who represent doctors, nurses, hospitals, school administrators and businesses huddled to promote mask-wearing, social distancing and handwashing. They warned the state’s hospitals could face a tipping point in their ability to care for COVID-19 patients.

“Masking is a simple act that each one of us can participate in and it can save lives,” said Dr. Benjamin Aaker, the president of the South Dakota State Medical Association. “If you mask, that life could be your mother, father, your friend, or even your own.”

Noem’s spokesman Ian Fury said the governor does not oppose all mask-wearing, but is trying to promote a “nuanced” approach to masks. She has said it is appropriate to wear masks around people with symptoms of COVID-19 or in hospitals. But she has not encouraged people to wear face coverings in public, as recommended by the CDC.


October has already become the state’s deadliest during the pandemic, with 152 people dying. Health officials have tallied 375 total deaths from COVID-19.

The groups calling for mask-wearing detailed the upheaval caused by virus infections — from school administrators struggling to conduct contract tracing to businesses worried about the economic impacts of widespread outbreaks.

The state’s prisons have seen the greatest surge in cases in recent weeks. Roughly one out of every three inmates statewide have an active infection.

The state has reported the nation’s second-highest number of new cases per capita over the last two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins researchers. There were 1,226 new cases per 100,000 people, meaning that one in roughly every 82 people tested positive. The Department of Health reported 989 new cases on Tuesday.

The rise in hospitalizations has forced the state’s two largest hospital systems — Sanford Health and Avera Health — to alter the logistics of some elective procedures to free up space for the influx of COVID-19 patients.

There were 395 people hospitalized by COVID-19 statewide, according to the Department of Health. About 34% of general-care hospital beds and 38% of Intensive Care Units statewide remained available on Tuesday.

Health care providers will hit an unmanageable load of

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More N95 Masks Are On The Way As Production Ramps Up Into 2021

The CEO of 3M, Mike Roman, announced that production of its N95 respirator masks is increasing since COVID-19 is starting to become more widespread in many countries. 

3M, a company focused on the industry field, health care, consumer goods and worker safety, started producing more of the N95 masks in January when China’s cases began to skyrocket and before the coronavirus pandemic made its way to the US.

The company is slated to produce around 2 billion masks by the end of the year, Roman explained to CNBC. Half of those masks will be used in the US. 

“We are bringing capacity on. We are making more N95 respirators than ever, and we’ll continue to add some capacity as we go into the end of the year, into next year,” Roman also added. 

These specific types of masks are mainly needed by those in the healthcare field and those who are first responders. 

There have been shortages of these masks and other PPE throughout the entire pandemic. Experts stress that the general public shouldn’t be wearing these specific masks. This way, there’ll be more for those who have to wear them daily, according to CNBC. 

For those that prefer to wear N95’s, Roman explained, “We’ll continue to look for ways to support consumers, and our consumer teams are looking at innovative, new mask kinds of solutions in addition to the N95 respirators, so we’ll work to respond to that, as well.”

The general public should wear cloth face coverings/masks in order to protect themselves and others from the virus, per CDC recommendations.

N95Masks A Brooklyn man was arrested for selling medical supplies at inflated prices. Photo: Creative Commons

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The Latest: No Masks: Pope, Spanish PM Meet at Vatican | World News

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis met with the Spanish prime minister at the Vatican, but neither man wore a mask during the public part of their meeting.

That’s despite 13 Swiss Guards and someone staying at the same Vatican City guest house where Francis lives recently testing positive for the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez wore a mask when he arrived in a Vatican courtyard, but everyone sat unmasked immediately before and after his closed-door talks with Francis.

Spain this week became the first country in Western Europe with more than 1 million confirmed virus cases.

The Vatican says Sanchez also spoke with the Holy See’s foreign minister, discussing matters including “the current health emergency, the process of European integration and migration.”

In his speech, Francis called politics “an act of charity, nobility” and the mission of a politician is to help a nation to progress. The pontiff also says its “very sad” when ideologies drive the destiny of a nation.

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— US sets daily record of more than 83,000 virus cases

— Pope Francis, Spanish PM Sanchez meet at Vatican without masks

— Italy’s daily coronavirus cases reach nearly 20,000

— Poland’s President Andrzej Duda has tested positive for the coronavirus; apologizes to those in quarantine because of contact, including Poland’s recent French Open winner.

— AstraZeneca resumes late-stage testing of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate in the U.S.

— Police force in England says it will try to stop people from leaving Wales, which has started a 17-day lockdown to slow a surging rate of coronavirus infections.

Follow all of AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

PHOENIX — Arizona is experiencing increases in coronavirus cases and the rate of positive test results.

The 14-day rolling average of daily confirmed infections rose from 617 on Oct. 9 to 914 on Friday. Meanwhile, the average daily deaths increased from 7.6 to 8.4 and the positive test average went from 6.5% to 8.9%.

Rolling averages even out daily spikes and drops.

The state Department of Health Services on Saturday reported 890 cases and four additional deaths, increasing the Arizona totals to 236,772 confirmed infections and 5,869 deaths.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma has registered more than 1,800 newly confirmed coronavirus cases.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health report on Saturday comes one day after Gov. Kevin Stitt extended a state of emergency another 30 days. The health department reported 1,829 new cases for a total of 115,685.

There have been 11 more deaths, bringing the death toll to 1,245.

ROME – Italy’s one-day coronavirus cases crept closer to 20,000 on Saturday.

That’s despite a few thousand fewer swab tests performed, according to the Health Ministry.

Lombardy, where the outbreak has been most devastating, registered more than double the number of daily cases than any other region.

The nation’s confirmed death toll, second highest in Europe after Britain’s, rose to 37,210, after 151 more deaths.

CHICAGO —

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Will masks become the ‘new normal’ even after the pandemic has passed? Some Americans say so

  • Some countries, particularly in Asia, shifted their cultures after a pandemic to embrace mask-wearing in public places.
  • Some Americans say they’ve been forever changed by the pandemic, particularly when it comes to hygiene practices like hand-washing and masks.
  • For those with auto-immune diseases, that would be a positive shift.



a person standing in front of a building: People wear face masks in Times Square as the city continues the re-opening efforts following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on October 22, 2020 in New York City.


© Provided by CNBC
People wear face masks in Times Square as the city continues the re-opening efforts following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on October 22, 2020 in New York City.

Mandy Elmore, 47, has been wearing masks for more than 20 years. That’s because she has cystic fibrosis, a hereditary disease that affects her lungs and digestive system.

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Because of her illness, a cold or flu can land her in the hospital. Prior to the pandemic, Elmore, who lives in Dallas, Texas, had to stop going to church or traveling on planes to avoid strangers coughing and sneezing directly on her.

“Masks offer freedom for those of us who are sick,” she said. “I would feel comfortable going to church in the winter or to movies or to birthday parties if people could think about those like me who truly suffer as a result of a simple cold virus.”

For millions of Americans like Elmore, it would change their lives for the better if it became more of a cultural norm in the U.S. for people to wear masks when they’re under the weather or in crowded areas. The West has stigmatized mask-wearing, but in countries like Japan or South Korea, residents might get dirty looks if they hop on a subway with a sniffle and no mask.

Still, there’s reason for skepticism. Not everyone in America is wearing masks, even now, when public health officials are strongly encouraging them to do so. Rallies to protest masks have popped up across the country, with many Americans pointing out that it’s a violation of their personal freedoms.

But for others, who potentially represent a less vocal majority, it could become the new normal. Since the start of the pandemic, many people bought a handful of masks for the first time and have gotten used to wearing them in public. Doctors and public health experts believe that American culture could fundamentally shift to embrace new hygiene practices.

“I think we do need a new culture of masks, at least any time not feeling well, and I think masks are in and handshakes out for the indefinite future,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, the former director of the C.D.C. during the Obama Administration and the president of global health initiative Resolve to Save Lives.

“Post pandemic, there will be new social norms,” added Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, a pulmonary and critical care doctor, who treats patients with chronic respiratory conditions like COPD and cystic fibrosis, as well as Covid-19.

“I think face masks will continue to be used by the general public in times when they don’t feel well, and honestly we’re realizing that no one feels slighted without

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