It's OK to wear a mask

November 29, 2022
Elke Shaw-Tulloch, Division of Public Health

Public health officials around the country are reminding people that it's OK and appropriate to mask up. This is especially true entering the season of holiday parties and family gatherings.

COVID-19 continues to spread, and it's joined this fall and winter by higher levels of flu and RSV. All three are respiratory illnesses spread by saliva and droplets produced when people talk, cough, sneeze, and even breathe.

One sure-fire way to slow the spread of all three is to wear a quality, well-fitting mask when you are in crowded, indoor environments. N95 or KN95 masks are recommended for the highest protection, but the best mask is the one you’ll use, so get the most protective mask you can that fits well and is comfortable for you.

If you're sick, or you've been around someone who's sick, and you can't stay home, please consider wearing a mask in public. It protects those around you.

Likewise, don't judge those who choose to wear masks. Masks help protect vulnerable people who may be avoiding illness while fighting a severe disease like cancer or heart disease. Or they may be taking as many precautions as possible to protect a vulnerable loved one.

It’s clear that more people are getting sick. RSV has spiked in Idaho the last four weeks. Flu also swept across the U.S. this month, and we estimate high or very high activity in all but one of Idaho's seven public health districts. The percent positivity of COVID-19 tests done in the state and reported to public health also crept upward last week from 6.6 to 7.6 percent.

It's impossible to know how sick you might get from RSV, flu, or COVID-19, but we do know there are steps you can take to try to avoid getting them in the first place. There are vaccines that will help fight flu and COVID-19, and all three can be slowed or stopped when people wear masks.

Holiday parties include family and friends, some of whom may be vulnerable to these viruses that are already circulating. So please think about masking up, especially around very young or older people, and be compassionate and respectful of others who mask up, too.


Elke Shaw-Tulloch is the administrator of the Division of Public Health, and the state’s public health officer. She has worked for the department since 1996 and was promoted to division administrator in 2012. Since February 2020, she has focused most of her time on responding to the coronavirus pandemic. 

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