Healthcare workers stress the importance of still wearing face masks during pandemic

Updated: Mar. 2, 2021 at 9:20 PM CST
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Despite dropping the statewide mask mandate, Gov. Tate Reeves is still urging people to listen to their health advisers on how to avoid COVID-19.

In recent interviews conducted before Reeves’ latest executive order, registered nurses from Memorial Hospital at Gulfport were consistent with one message: continue wearing a mask despite the improving statistics.

“Just because things are starting to let up now doesn’t mean we can let up,” said Whitney Sutton, manager of Memorial’s intensive care unit. “Our hospitals, yes they are looking OK right now; however, in just an instant, we could be overcrowded again.

While the number of COVID-19 patients is at an all-time low at Memorial, that doesn’t reflect the number of active cases still in the community.

“There are so many people that are walking out there, and they don’t even know that they have it,” said Pam McIntire, COVID-19 case manager. ”That’s why wearing a mask is so important.”

New daily cases in Mississippi are decreasing and more groups are being cleared for the vaccine, but healthcare workers don’t want people to take that as an excuse to stop worrying about the coronavirus.

“People need to really take it seriously,” said Sherri Houston in the emergency department. “Make sure that they’re staying safe, that they’re wearing their masks and they’re sanitizing.”

State medical leaders have also advised that the downward trend in COVID-19 cases shouldn’t lead residents toward “unreasonable optimism” regarding the fight against coronavirus, citing this has happened before within the past year.

While masks may not be the most comfortable of accessories, healthcare professionals who have been on the front lines in the battle against COVID-19 know that there are worse things than wearing a mask.

“When I do go out, it does get frustrating when I hear people complain about having to wear a mask,” said Pam Barton, who works on Memorial’s COVID-19 floor. “They don’t understand. If they had someone going through it, or if they walked a mile in our shoes. One day, walk a mile in a COVID nurse’s shoes one day, and you’ll never complain about wearing a mask again. You would get it, you would really get it then.

Watch “Mississippi Tested: The COVID Fight Now and in the Future” Thursday, March 11 at 6:30 p.m. on WLOX CBS.

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