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Doctors Debunk Common Face Mask Myths, Including Suffocation And Bacteria Fears

EAST ORANGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Face masks have become key in stopping the spread of the coronavirus, but some people still wonder if they really need to wear them.

Even outside at an Essex County park, face coverings are the rule.

That's fine with mother Dawn Leahy, of Clifton, New Jersey.

"We adhere to it. We all have our face masks," she said.

But in other areas, where it's recommended but not required, Union City resident John DiMartino has noticed the fatigue factor and too many ditching the mask altogether.

"They just seem to have no consideration of others," he said.


"With reopenings, people started developing a maybe false sense of security and I'm noticing that mask usage has dropped significantly," Dr. Niket Sonpal said.

Sonpal says he hears a lot of excuses. Some say they're convinced if they wear one too long they could suffocate, a major mask myth he says.

"Every health care provider in the world wears their masks for 8 to 12 hours a shift ... and not a single one has perished," he said.

"Is there any truth to, 'if I wear my mask too long, I'm just kind of recirculating my own bacteria and I can get sick from that?'" CBS2's Jessica Layton asked.

"No, there's no evidence actually or data to say that," Sonpal said.

Dr. Alexander Salerno's concern is the people who are making careless mistakes that contaminate their masks "by touching it, rolling it up and things like that."

"So it defeats the purpose," he said. "We don't touch our face when masks are on. We don't move the masks below our nose, over our forehead, around our neck."

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ Health Dept. | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211

These reminders come at the same time Gov. Phil Murphy says New Jersey is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases for people ages 18-29, tweeting, "ATTN YOUNG PEOPLE: YOU ARE NOT INVINCIBLE."

"We're nowhere near sort of the end of the road when it comes to this virus," Sonpal said.

Both doctors say wearing a mask is not an excuse to disregard social distancing.

Without a vaccine, face coverings and common sense could be our best defense against the coronavirus.

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