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Most of us have had to go to an ER at some point in our lives. We expect that while there we will receive the appropriate medical care and that safety standards and protocols are in place so that we don’t go home sicker than when we arrived. Because of the pandemic, patients and anyone accompanying them to the ER are expected to mask-up in an effort to augment those safety protocols. We know that mask-wearing keeps us safer, lowering our chances of contracting the coronavirus.

Recently, a family member of mine who caught COVID-19 visited their ER seeking treatment. They were not terribly ill from the virus, but wanted some relief from their symptoms. I share this because my relative refused to mask-up while in the ER, putting other patients, as well as health care professionals at risk of contracting the virus.

It made me think: “Why do we still wear masks when we go to our ER’s?”

One of the great things about wearing a mask is that without any additional effort, we keep everyone around us safer. There are many individuals in our society that are at a higher risk of suffering more serious health effects from contracting illnesses such as COVID-19, including seniors, unvaccinated individuals, newborns, cancer patients, diabetics, those suffering from asthma or COPD, patients with various heart issues, and immunocompromised individuals. I like knowing that I am contributing to their well-being.

When I had to go to my local ER recently due to excruciating pain, I immediately felt less anxious observing that everyone was wearing a mask, patients and health care staff alike. I am immunocompromised and at a higher risk of contracting communicable diseases and conditions. I knew this before COVID-19 showed up, and it still makes sense for me to continue to take steps to keep myself as safe as possible.

As I waited in the ER, I couldn’t help but notice the shortage of staff throughout. Everyone is aware of this pressing issue from the news or from firsthand experience. Because of this, some ER’s in B.C. have had to close permanently or hours have been reduced in order to keep them open. Realizing the possible impact of not wearing a mask, I want to do my part in order to help keep ER staff healthier.

I am helping my community by the simple act of masking-up.

Another important reason to wear a mask at ER’s: “This is where sick people go!” as an emergency physician I know once reminded me. Patients may be there with something as minor as a cold or a flu, but they may have something more serious such as TB. I don’t want to bring anything home with me after visiting my ER.

When I think about how difficult or complicated life can be, wearing a mask occasionally doesn’t even come close to topping that list. Personally, I hate wearing a mask. I sometimes have a hard time breathing while doing so because of a health condition, but I love that they can keep me healthier.

So next time you are at an ER, remember that a mask provides protection not only for you, but for everyone around you. A simple act, with great potential to keep your community safer and healthier.




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