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Wearing a Mask is NOT a Political Statement Says Athens Co. Health Dept. Head

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As we re-open Southeastern Ohio, in accordance with state guidelines, wearing a mask in public and social distancing are vital protections against any COVID-19 resurgence, says Dr. James R. Gaskell, Athens City-County Health Commissioner.

He pleads with local residents to “wear their masks with pride.”

He emphasizes that wearing a mask or not wearing a mask should not be a political statement but instead should be a health concern not only for the wearer but for others.

“You should think of wearing a mask as taking care of your neighbor, a loved one, and yourself,” Dr. Gaskell says.

He notes that the homemade cotton two-ply mask provides about 60 to 65 percent protection against the virus being transmitted by droplets. That protection combined with social distancing will limit any resurgence in Ohio and Southeastern Ohio reopening, he notes.

Dr. Gaskell talked about the origins of the COVID-19 virus during his Conversation from Studio B, hosted by WOUB’s Tom Hodson. He states, that along with three other previous coronaviruses, it originated with bats and then was transferred to humans.

He notes that this coronavirus has about a 5.8 percent mortality rate nationally but in Ohio we have a higher death rate at 6.1 percent. He also says that about 17 percent of those who contract the virus in Ohio are hospitalized and 25 percent of that number are placed in the Intensive Care Units (ICU).

He says that Athens County has had 18 cases and 1 death from the disease. He attributes these relatively low numbers to several factors. He said closing the Ohio University campus before the students came back from Spring Break was critical.

Dr. Gaskell also praises local nursing homes for following strict guidelines and limiting exposure. He notes that recently the Athens County nursing homes passed a Center for Disease Control (CDC) inspection related to the COVID-19 virus.

Even though Southeastern Ohio is re-opening, he cautions people with compromised health conditions and people over 60 years of age to be extra cautious when out in public.

Dr. Gaskell has been a physician in Athens County for over 50 years who specialized in pediatrics. He received his original medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh Medical School.