Cloth masks are our 'lifeline': Dr. Emily Landon explains how to stay safe from COVID-19 as the state reopens

[MUSIC PLAYING]

First of all, I want to thank all of you Illinoisans for being sensible, cautious, and selfless in the way that you've approached this pandemic. Some of you have been sick. Some of you have lost loved ones. And many of you have lost jobs.

But I know a lot of you will also look back on this and wonder why we had to stay at home, since nothing awful happened. But like I said in March, this exactly is the mark of success. It's what a flat curve looks like.

It's not perfect. Still, every person with COVID passes it along to someone else who will get COVID. That means our case counts and hospital loads stay stable and somewhat predictable.

We would love even less transmission. But this virus is tricky. And even keeping things flat has required huge sacrifices.

Now we all realize there will be no swift rescue, no knight in shining armor in the form of a vaccine or an antiviral that will sweep in and return our lives to normal before the summer comes. I'm pretty disappointed about not looking forward to sitting by a pool or going to block parties and taking a vacation. But we need to begin to revive some of our workplaces.

And it's not without risk that we do this. Our transmission balance is tenuous. And business as usual could set off another wave of infections that threaten our lives and our livelihoods.

We need masks, we need hand hygiene, and we need distance to make this work. And we do need to be all-in in order to be successful. These cloth masks, like the one I have here, are our lifeline.

As you know, people can spread COVID for days before they get sick. Or some people may never get symptoms at all, which means that anyone could be contagious with COVID at any time. And these cloth masks don't just help protect you from other people who may be sick.

It turns out some new evidence shows they may be better than we thought they were, which is great news. But they also help to keep your own respiratory droplets inside the mask, so that you can't get them onto grocery store boxes or ATM screens. But they're not perfect. And you can't wear them when you're eating and drinking.

And that means we have to pair them with keeping our distance, and staying home when we can, and keeping our hands clean, in order to maintain that tenuous transmission balance that we have. So please, never leave the house without your face covering. And always put it on when you go inside another building or if you're near other people outside. Soon, I promise, it will be as natural as wearing pants, which most of us are pretty good about.

I still see a lot of people, though, that don't have face coverings on outside. And it makes me wonder if we're going to be as successful in this next phase as we have been in March and April. I think we can do it.

This is a fight against a virus, not an ideology. And I know many of you understand that-- a lot of you, almost all of you. And you will take my message to heart.

And you'll need your families, your communities, your neighborhoods in wearing your masks, in staying home when you don't need to be out, in order to make space for nonessential workers to be able to get to their essential jobs and for other people to do important tasks. And when you do go out, you'll wear your mask proudly. Because it says to others that you are not giving up, and you're not giving in, because you're in this fight to win.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

University of Chicago Medicine infectious diseases expert Dr. Emily Landon spoke during the Illinois governor's COVID-19 press conference on May 19, 2020. Hear her explain why wearing masks in public is crucial to our safety and success as the state prepares to enter the next phase of reopening and recovery.

Full transcript of Dr. Landon's speech:

First of all, I want to thank all of you Illinoisans for being sensible, cautious, and selfless in the way that you've approached this pandemic. Some of you have been sick. Some of you have lost loved ones. And many of you have lost jobs.

But I know a lot of you will also look back on this and wonder why we had to stay at home, since nothing awful happened. But like I said in March, this exactly is the mark of success. It's what a flat curve looks like.

It's not perfect. Still, every person with COVID passes it along to someone else who will get COVID. That means our case counts and hospital loads stay stable and somewhat predictable.

We would love even less transmission. But this virus is tricky. And even keeping things flat has required huge sacrifices.

Now we all realize there will be no swift rescue, no knight in shining armor in the form of a vaccine or an antiviral that will sweep in and return our lives to normal before the summer comes. I'm pretty disappointed about not looking forward to sitting by a pool or going to block parties and taking a vacation. But we need to begin to revive some of our workplaces.

And it's not without risk that we do this. Our transmission balance is tenuous. And business as usual could set off another wave of infections that threaten our lives and our livelihoods.

We need masks, we need hand hygiene, and we need distance to make this work. And we do need to be all-in in order to be successful. These cloth masks, like the one I have here, are our lifeline.

As you know, people can spread COVID for days before they get sick. Or some people may never get symptoms at all, which means that anyone could be contagious with COVID at any time. And these cloth masks don't just help protect you from other people who may be sick.

It turns out some new evidence shows they may be better than we thought they were, which is great news. But they also help to keep your own respiratory droplets inside the mask, so that you can't get them onto grocery store boxes or ATM screens. But they're not perfect. And you can't wear them when you're eating and drinking.

And that means we have to pair them with keeping our distance, and staying home when we can, and keeping our hands clean, in order to maintain that tenuous transmission balance that we have. So please, never leave the house without your face covering. And always put it on when you go inside another building or if you're near other people outside. Soon, I promise, it will be as natural as wearing pants, which most of us are pretty good about.

I still see a lot of people, though, that don't have face coverings on outside. And it makes me wonder if we're going to be as successful in this next phase as we have been in March and April. I think we can do it.

This is a fight against a virus, not an ideology. And I know many of you understand that— a lot of you, almost all of you. And you will take my message to heart.

And you'll need your families, your communities, your neighborhoods in wearing your masks, in staying home when you don't need to be out, in order to make space for nonessential workers to be able to get to their essential jobs and for other people to do important tasks. And when you do go out, you'll wear your mask proudly. Because it says to others that you are not giving up, and you're not giving in, because you're in this fight to win.

Emily Landon, MD

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Emily Landon, MD

Emily Landon, MD

Dr. Emily Landon specializes in infectious disease, and serves as Executive Medical Director for infection prevention and control.

Learn more about Dr. Landon.

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