Storytelling on How and Why to Wear a Mask during the COVID-19 Pandemic


Much has been written in various formats – from scientific articles to creative stories – about wearing a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What’s New About Wearing a Mask?

In this post, I have gathered different sources that explain and illustrate the basics of mask-wearing during this pandemic. Yes, full disclosure, I believe wearing a mask in public places helps reduce the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus.

Yet, it’s important to truly understand the reasons behind this directive, which come from public health and scientific data. And that’s my point here: to share these examples from scientists and writers who have taken a distinct approaches to substantiate their point of view. They reference and curate other sources as well, a step that simplifies the search for credible information and details why putting on that mask matters.

Visuals, Video and Poetry

@DearPandemic offers a refreshing stance with scientific backup from Those Nerdy Girls curating COVID-19 content for the greater good. We love facts.

Back to the wearing-a-mask question, one these six women scientists answer via this tweet with visuals, video and poetry to make the point.

An Analogy and a Reminder

Think of the three Ws when it comes to preventing spread of this virus, said infectious disease specialist Peter Chin-Hong, M.D., from the University of California San Francisco. He makes an important point – the best mask anyone can wear is the one they can wear comfortably and consistently.

With that consistent and comfortable mask in place, now consider that wearing a mask is like taking cholesterol medicine.

“The concept is risk reduction rather than absolute prevention,” said Chin-Hong. “You don’t throw up your hands if you think a mask is not 100 percent effective. That’s silly. Nobody’s taking a cholesterol medicine because they’re going to prevent a heart attack 100 percent of the time, but you’re reducing your risk substantially.”

A mnemonic that Chin-Hong likes is the “Three W’s to ward off COVID-19:” wearing a mask, washing your hands, and watching your distance.

Source: The article Still Confused about Masks? Here’s the Science behind How Face Masks Prevent Coronavirus.

Reality Science via Video

The advice early in the pandemic confused many, as the saga unfolded before us. Now, that advice has evolved, with new data from ongoing studies of how this virus spreads. Current guidance calls for reciprocal consideration when wearing a mask – to protect each person as well as those around them.

“People need to know that wearing masks can reduce transmission of the virus by as much as 50%, and those who refuse are putting their lives, their families, their friends, and their communities at risk,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, in the same guidance reference noted above.

To see exactly where particles go when people talk, cough or sneeze, @DrJoeHanson, Ph.D. biologist and science writer, demonstrates this concept in a video that’s both informative and entertaining. These visuals show what happens with a mask on and off, something hard to understand without the comparison.

U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Jerome M. Adams, M.D., M.P.H., offers another angle on wearing a mask – how to make one using a t-shirt and rubber bands. As a non-seamstress, I tried it. My advice – just make sure the t-shirt squares are big enough to cover the nose, mouth and chin; cut them about 9-1/2 inches in length.

Communicate the Communication Updates

The COVID-19 information evolution will continue, and as communicators and public relations pros, monitoring these changes becomes even more vital. The value of scientific news shared in everyday language via video and other visuals improves and enhances telling the many components of the COVID-19 story.

I’ve shared just a few creative and helpful examples on communicating about wearing a mask during the COVID0-19 pandemic. What sources do you use when developing content for clients and customers? What challenges have you overcome in telling this story?

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Joyce Lofstrom, APR, brings people, places, organizations and services to life with words...she is a former journalist and a current content developer and writer. Joyce Lofstrom & Associates offers content development, editing, and public relations expertise to clients in the health care and digital health technology marketplace.

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