Justin Oliver, owner of Village Barbershop in Pinehurst, wears a mask while cutting a masked client’s hair.

Dr. Paul Jawanda, an infectious disease specialist with FirstHealth of the Carolinas, says face coverings are “our top possible intervention at this point” against the spread of COVID-19.

“I very much support the use of masks, and for all of us it carries much more potential benefit than harm,” Jawanda wrote in an email to The Pilot. “I admit it can be uncomfortable, but it is an effort I am willing to make to potentially protect others.”

Last week, Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order requiring face coverings in public places where social distancing can’t be maintained. The statewide mandate took effect Friday and is set to expire on July 17.

Paul Jawanda

Paul Jawanda, M.D., FirstHealth of the Carolinas

“Overwhelming evidence that is growing by the week shows that wearing a face covering can greatly reduce the spread of COVID-19, especially from people who have it and don’t know it yet,” Cooper said after announcing the order during a news conference. “Face coverings are a simple way to control this virus while protecting ourselves, our families and the other people around us.”

While earlier guidance from organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that masks should only be worn by people who are sick, researchers now know that individuals can carry the disease without experiencing any symptoms. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, both recommended the universal embrace of face coverings during testimony Tuesday before a Senate committee.

Jawanda said masks have been required for months among health care workers at FirstHealth of the Carolinas, which is Moore County’s largest employer. Moore Regional Hospital, the company’s flagship facility, is located in Pinehurst.

“It has really benefited us in our healthcare system to have all FirstHealth healthcare workers mask,” Jawanda said. “We feel it has decreased the chance of spreading infection amongst employees. Indeed, we feel that our universal mask use has decreased the risk of COVID-19 transmission within our healthcare system.”

He added: “Just like we expect surgeons to mask while they operate (to avoid spreading germs to their patients, that humans carry asymptomatically), we are wearing masks during this pandemic to potentially protect one another. While I think this gesture of caring for one another is enough, there are innumerable experts who feel it truly decreases the spread of COVID.”

The respiratory droplets that spread COVID-19 are mainly released by coughing, talking and sneezing. Infection occurs when these droplets are inhaled through the mouth or nostrils.

A recent review of more than 170 observational studies found that face coverings appear to curb the spread of the virus. Conducted with funding from the World Health Organization, the analysis was published earlier this month by the medical journal The Lancet.

“People can be asymptomatic and spread COVID,” Jawanda said. “At this point, we have no better strategy in our armamentarium to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Universal mask use is our top possible intervention at this point.” 

On Tuesday afternoon, FirstHealth of the Carolinas reported that 16 patients were being treated for COVID-19 across its hospital system, which serves residents in Moore, Hoke, Richmond and Montgomery counties. The company had completed 10,437 tests for the disease, with 1,236 of the tests, or nearly 12 percent, coming back positive.

A total of 483 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Moore County since March, according to the local Health Department. The Health Department on Tuesday estimated that 359 people, or about 74 percent, have recovered from the disease, while 14 residents have died.

(15) comments

Stephen Frobey

Article in today's NY Post has experts saying Americans will be wearing masks for a couple of years.

Not me.

Sally Larson

Well, whoopie for you!! You must just love knowing you are keeping this state from opening as long as you stay part of the problem and not the solution. Woo-hoo!!

Matthew Gritzmacher

How disappointing that we are even in a place where this article needs to be run, that there's a small chance a local specialist will get through to those who have put their heads in the sand to the recommendations of much louder calls for mask use.

Kent Misegades

Wow - gasoline costs $1.66 in Cheraw. The savings just paid for the short drive down from Pinehurst. Few people wear masks here but folks are friendly and happy. More pushback against masks: “Josie Machovec, Carl Holme, Rachel Eade and Robert Spreitzer filed a lawsuit in Palm Beach County Court on Tuesday, alleging the county’s order requiring masks in many public places violates their rights. The lawsuit calls masks “harmful medical devices” with “well-known risks and potential for serious injury and death.”

Sally Larson

Seriously Kent? You are more likely to bring it back here to friends and family by going to SC where cases have been spiking since they re-opened. Even your VIce President is telling everyone to wear masks. You just have to be part of the problem and refuse to be part of the solution forcing NC to keep staying closed until idiots like you either get the virus or grow up.

Doug Champion

I wish the good doctor would explain his position to the first health fitness folks, who have opened the gyms and are not requiring masks.

Kent Misegades

And why the Governor gets a pass when marching with anarchists in Raleigh.

Kent Misegades

As just seen in USA Today: “The scientific usefulness of a mask has been so aggressively overstated, and the foundational importance of the Constitution has been so aggressively understated, that we have normalized people screaming obscenities at each other while hiking. The Covid virus was supposed to be contained in the kind of lab where people wear astronaut suits and go through triple sealed doors. It is a con of massive proportion to assert that now, having escaped those environs, a bandana will magically do the trick. The pore size of cloth face coverings range from ~ 20-100 microns. The Covid virus is 200-1000x smaller than that, at 0.1 microns. Putting up a chain link fence will not keep out a mosquito.“ Simone Gold, MD, JD, FABEM, is a board certified emergency physician.

Carlin Corsino

Emergency physicians are generalists. Dr. Jawanda Is an infectious disease specialist who did a 3 year fellowship during which he studied nothing but infectious diseases. I feel that the doctor interviewed in this article, and the infectious disease community as a whole support mask wearing. This doctor is a man who could’ve gone into GI or Cardiology and printed money. Instead he likely took a pay cut to spend 3 extra years studying infectious diseases so he could support a largely underserved patient population. Now is his time to shine! He is trying to do what is best for his community and his patients. His recommendation is to wear a mask. Why would you not respect that?

Kent Misegades

Because the recommendation is far from proven science, is not necessary for the vast majority of people not at risk, and it’s too late anyway. See the latest study results from Penn State that state masks now are akin to closing the gate after the horses have escaped.

Sally Larson

Kent, would you please send a link to that article, I can't find anything that suggests masks aren't useful.

Carlin Corsino

It is basically an op Ed by one emergency physician who is spouting fringe ideology and medical pseudoscience. It’s the same type of people who didn’t want to wear seatbelts when that first became mandatory...

Sally Larson

Typical, thanks.

Jim Tomashoff

Interesting Kent, I've looked for this supposed article in yesterday's USA Today. Surprise, I can't find it anywhere.

Sally Larson

Good story Jamie, everyone needs to hear this.

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