If you must leave home, wear a mask!

Masks save lives!

A special message from Dr. Charles Crutchfield

Courtesy of Dr. Crutchfield

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the face of the national effort to deal with the coronavirus crisis, recently commented, “When you look at the proportion of people that get into serious trouble and die, again, it’s going to be disproportionate towards the African Americans.”

When I asked myself, “Why is the Black community getting hit so hard by this?” I realized that the Black community has been burdened by poor health for a long time. If you consider pre-existing conditions such as obesity, asthma, diabetes, hypertension, and overall decreased access to healthcare, and now you compound it with this deadly disease, it’s no surprise we are going to get hit harder.

In Chicago, nearly 70% of virus-related fatalities are Black, even though African Americans make up less than one-third of the population. In the epicenter, New York City, 59% of deaths are in the Queens and the Bronx; both areas have high Black and Hispanic populations.

Down south in Louisiana, African Americans, who only account for 32% of the population, make up 70% of the state’s deaths. These numbers are beyond stunningly tragic. 

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I have publicly called for immediate safety measures to protect the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, citing recent, deeply concerning statistics in making this public call. Black people are dying at a higher rate from complications related to COVID-19 infections than many others. Specifically, I take a different view on the value of protective masks than one recently reported here.

Over one thousand people died from COVID-19 complications in the U.S. the day before yesterday, over 1,300 died yesterday, and the number is going up. The numbers are expected to peak in Minnesota in two to three weeks, with over 50 people dying per day. This situation is gravely serious.

I am urging immediate action. Even if these numbers are higher than what may result on any given day, when it comes to protecting those vulnerable to the virus, it’s better to be safe than sorry. We should take immediate measures that have the most impact on saving people’s lives. Not just African American lives, but all lives. 

Based on indications from current research and medical data, as well as the position of Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and the federal Center for Disease Control (CDC), I am encouraging everyone to take these proper precautions:

1. Stay home!

2. If you need groceries or medications from a pharmacy, order from a store that delivers.

3. Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, and sanitize home surfaces susceptible to being touched.

4. Don’t touch your face!

5. Practice appropriate social distancing.

6. If going outside the home, ALWAYS WEAR A MASK! I agree with CDC guidelines: If you absolutely have to venture out, social distance AND WEAR A MASK. Any mask!

Many people have COVID-19 and don’t even know it. These people are called asymptomatic shedders, and they can potentially spread the virus by coughing and sneezing. They may even spread it by breathing heavily into the air, even when they don’t feel sick.

This is similar to the phenomenon that occurs when a person breathes on a mirror and it fogs up. That’s aerosol. Nearly any masks will block aerosol that carries the virus from the breath of asymptomatic shedders.

Dr. Fauci, perhaps our nation’s leading expert on the topic, has said that up to 50% of people may be asymptomatic shedders. That is, they are spreading the virus without being aware of it. Wearing a mask to trap the aerosol-containing coronavirus particles has tremendous upside potential and minimal downside. 

While social distancing alone can help, the aerosol effect from asymptomatic shedders makes social distance practices combined with mask use critical. 

For a great tutorial by Dr. Jerome Adams, the surgeon general, on making a mask at home, please visit www.CrutchfieldDermatology.com/facemask. This isn’t just about the individual in the mask. Think of the mask as protecting you as well as all of your friends, relatives, elderly, and anyone else in the Black or broader community who may be vulnerable to the virus.

Preserving medical masks for doctors and healthcare providers is also critical. All other masks—including home-crafted masks—are advised for everyone else. 

So to sum up, stay home. If you absolutely must venture out, wear a mask to protect yourself, your loved ones, and anyone you encounter, especially at-risk African Americans.

About Charles Crutchfield III MD

Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD is a board-certified dermatologist and clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School and a Benedict Distinguished Visiting Professor of biology at Carleton College. He also has a private practice, Crutchfield Dermatology in Eagan, MN. He received his MD and Master’s Degree in molecular biology and genomics from the Mayo Clinic. He has been selected as one of the top 10 dermatologists in the United States by Black Enterprise magazine. Minnesota Medicine recognized Dr. Crutchfield as one of the 100 Most Influential Healthcare Leaders in Minnesota. Dr. Crutchfield specializes in skin-of-color and has been selected by physicians and nurses as one of the leading dermatologists in Minnesota for the past 18 years. He is the team dermatologist for the Minnesota Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves, Wild and Lynx. Dr. Crutchfield is an active member of both the American and National Medical Associations and president of the Minnesota Association of Black Physicians. He can be reached at CrutchfieldDermatology.com or by calling 651-209-3600.

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