DEAR HARRIETTE: I was horrified to learn that a co-worker and her entire family caught COVID-19 even though they wore masks the entire time that movers -- who were also wearing masks -- were moving them into their new home. She says they worked together for eight hours but never took off their masks. She suspects that because there was a lot of heavy breathing due to moving furniture, maybe more droplets got out. Whatever! I really thought that you were safe if you wore a mask. I’m afraid to do anything now, given this new situation. Can you completely protect yourself from this virus? -- Afraid To Breathe
DEAR AFRAID TO BREATHE: I have looked through the research presented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other organizations that are making recommendations, and what is clear is that they say that wearing a mask will REDUCE the spread of COVID-19. Nowhere does it say that it will fully prevent the spread. Further, there is now a more contagious variant of the virus, which means that it is easier to catch.
Sadly, we are still in dark days health-wise. And we must remain ever vigilant. I’m sure your friends thought they were doing their best to be safe. Unfortunately, they probably did not stay 6 feet apart given what they were doing. You also didn't mention hand-washing, which is at least as important as masks in preventing the spread.
A reminder: The safety recommendations are to wear a mask; stay 6 feet apart; avoid crowds and poorly ventilated areas; and wash your hands regularly. These will help slow down the spread, but there is no 100% way to prevent catching the disease, and, as yet, there is no cure.