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Tiger King and COVID-19: To Mask or not to Mask

Updated: Apr 14, 2020

I have not jumped on the bandwagon to watch the newly released Netflix docuseries ‘Tiger King’. For whatever reason, it just doesn’t appeal to me. I also read that there is going to be one more episode, which I am sure millions of people will watch.

I worked with tigers in the past. I was a zookeeper, and did relief keeping on the big cat route at the Greater Vancouver Zoo. I had a huge interest in big cats, and carnivores in general.

So the idea of ‘Tiger King’ was kind of cringe-worthy.

People in isolation during COVID-19 need entertainment though, so I kind of get it.

What I wanted to also talk about is the news of the tiger at the Bronx Zoo that tested positive for coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). It didn’t surprise me. It is also more evidence that it’s not just about washing your hands. These tigers likely contracted this through aerosolized respiratory droplets from an asymptomatic zookeeper. We already know that cats can acquire viral load from breathing around infected cats, without direct contact with them. Still, so far, no cats have become severely ill as it has with humans.

COVID-19 Use of Masks:

My husband is on board with social distancing but when he went to the grocery store, he was appalled by the number of people that would brush past him. They could potentially be carrying the virus. I already mentioned that my husband has bronchitis and still has a chronic cough (no, he's not a smoker). Early on in this pandemic, our political leaders and public health officials told us that wearing a mask was not going to benefit you or protect you from the disease. But that those who were symptomatic (coughing, sneezing) should wear one to protect the people around them. This is likely due to our national shortage of masks that are needed for our health care workers. Public health is still telling people to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet (2 meters) from each other while shopping at super markets. But think about things when you step into an elevator. There are signs posted in my building to limit elevators for three people maximum, but there is no way to maintain a distance of 2 meters in a space that isn't 2 meters wide. Now, my husband and I wear masks in our building. We had two people test positive in the building so far. No one else seems to be talking about it, but that doesn't mean it isn't there. I heard someone at the end of the hall hacking out a lung.

The international gurus for health are the World Health Organization. They are still not mentioning the wide spread use of masks being useful to protect oneself. However, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S.A. are encouraging the wide spread use of home made masks. The thought still is that these masks are protecting others around you.

Excerpt from Public Health Canada:

Wearing a non-medical mask (e.g., homemade cloth mask) in the community has not been proven to protect the person wearing it. However, the use of a non-medical mask or facial covering can be an additional measure you can take to protect others around you.
Wearing a non-medical mask is another way of covering your mouth and nose to prevent your respiratory droplets from contaminating others or landing on surfaces. A cloth mask or face covering can reduce the chance that others are coming into contact with your respiratory droplets, in the same way that our recommendation to cover your cough with tissues or your sleeve can reduce that chance. 
For short periods of time when physical distancing is not possible in public settings (e.g., grocery shopping, in close settings such as public transit), wearing a non-medical mask is one way to protect those around you.

Several countries that implement both social distancing and mask wearing in public has been able to keep their infection rate down. See Hong Kong's rate.

So, the question remains: To Mask or Not To Mask??

For previous posts on COVID-19 head here.

Update April 14: I just wanted to link Dr. Weese’s post about masks here.

As well as a study that showed mask wearing prevents spread from those infected.

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