You wouldn’t drive a nail with a screwdriver or flip a steak with a garden hose. Having the right tool for the job makes all the difference — and right now, the latest research and evidence points to masks being the tool we need to slow the spread of COVID-19.

We are seeing a real and marked increase in COVID-19 in our region and other parts of Texas. Not only are case numbers up, but the percentage of tests coming back positive is up significantly.

The uptick is concerning, and cities and counties across the state are issuing masking requirements in response. We at the medical branch applaud these efforts and have made masks mandatory for employees, students, patients and guests on our campuses and in our clinics.

Are masks a silver bullet against COVID-19? No. But they are a useful and effective tool we can add, alongside social distancing, frequent and thorough hand washing, and self-isolation when ill.

There may be some confusion because early in the pandemic, health agencies and our own experts recommended that the public not wear masks. There were concerns that masks were ineffective, that they would not be worn properly and therefore increase exposure to the virus and that there were not enough masks available for frontline health care workers.

What’s changed? Hospitals have shored up their stocks of personal protective equipment, there is more education and awareness about proper mask wearing and — most importantly — we know more about how COVID-19 spreads. Scientists at the medical branch and around the world have been working tirelessly to better understand this virus.

The latest research plainly shows that even homemade masks prevent its spread.

Thanks to recently published studies, we now know that respiratory droplets from infected individuals — even from those who show no symptoms or have yet to show symptoms — are the main route the virus is transmitted between people. Droplets can come from coughing, sneezing, talking or even just breathing.

Masks are the first line of defense as they help people keep their droplets to themselves. A mask also prevents those droplets from dispersing into smaller, aerosolized particles that can float and linger in the air for a longer period of time.

Research shows just how important wearing a mask can be. A recent national study found that not wearing a face mask dramatically increased a person’s chances of being infected. A separate computer forecasting model found that if 80 percent of people wear masks, infection rates would plummet.

As we face increased community spread of COVID-19, mask wearing makes economic sense. We all want to keep our economy open and functioning. We can continue to enjoy and support local businesses safely, if we are careful about hygiene and social distancing and if we all wear masks.

Most importantly, wearing a mask can protect someone you know and love. It takes only one person in a household getting infected to bring the virus back home, potentially infecting an elderly or immunocompromised member of the family. A maskless outing to a store, restaurant or party is not worth putting mom or dad, grandma or grandpa in the hospital.

Wearing a mask in public is a low-risk, high-reward step we can all take to help stop the spread of COVID-19. There has been a lot of debate about personal freedom in relation to masks, but perhaps what is missing is a conversation about personal responsibility.

We each have responsibility for supporting public health in our communities — to take care of ourselves and each other. Fortunately, research confirms that we all have simple tools for combatting COVID-19. Keep our (physical) distance. Stay home and isolated from others if we are ill. Wash our hands — more often than we think we need to. And wear a mask!

Ben G. Raimer, MD, MA, FAAP, is interim president of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.


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(46) comments

Craig Mason


Paula Flinn

Excellent Advice! Too bad young people don’t read newspapers! All my friends, my age, are wearing masks in public.

PD Hyatt

There are a lot of us out here that are NOT wearing the masks and the towns or stores that are requiring it, well we just are by passing those areas and go elsewhere to eat and shop....

Bailey Jones

And we appreciate you segregating yourselves from the rest of the population.

Don Schlessinger


Bailey Jones

"personal responsibility" isn't the problem. We hear about that all the time from the anti-maskers, "I'll take care of me, you take care of you". No, what we're lacking these days is community responsibility - I'll take care of you, you take care of me. We used to hear about community responsibility a lot - neighbors looking out for neighbors, neighbors coming together to solve a common problem. These days that sort of responsibility crumbles under the weight of an ounce of cotton fabric.

Wayne D Holt

Bailey, your heart is in the right place but the mask street theater isn't what proponents claim it to be. In order to have the effect claimed, everyone would need to have the N95 s they say we shouldn't be using. The paper masks that you see all over town and distributed by businesses are USELESS. You may prove this by holding your hand up to a mask like that and exhaling; you will feel the water vapor on your hand easily.

The Covid-19 virus particle is anywhere from 10x to 1000x times smaller than what human beings expel normally during talking, breathing, etc. It will pass through a mask like that as if it wasn't even there.

Isn't any mask--even a flimsy paper one--better than no mask? Not if you think, as most people would, they have some kind of protection from it. Without a mask, you are very aware of how much space there is between you and others. With a mask on, many feel they can distance normally. I've seen this repeatedly.

Like many contentious issues these days, there is no Good Guy/Bad Guy dichotomy. There are very real negative effects in wearing a mask that researchers have documented. Is there a time and place to wear them appropriately? Absolutely. But the idea that a mask provides the Cloak of Invisibility to wearers--particularly the cheap ones seen so often--is dangerously misleading.

How absurd has this mandated mask mania gotten? I went through a fast food drive-thru last night without a mask. The nice young man who served me tapped on the notice next to the window and said next time you'll have to be wearing a mask, by city ordinance. I read the notice while I waited for my order. You may cover your nose and mouth with a napkin--a napkin--to fulfill the modern pharisees's letter of the law.

Bailey Jones

Cloth masks work fine, Wayne. Here's a test. Put on a tight weave multi-layer cloth mask - which is what I wear - and try to blow out a candle. It's true that the mesh isn't tight enough to block a virus - that's not the point. Viruses don't have wings or rocket motors, they rely entirely on blobs of snot and spit shooting out of your mouth and nose for transportation. The faster they leave, the further they go. A good cloth mask (and even a cheap paper mask) reduces the velocity of the air leaving your mouth and nose, and therefore reduces the distance that the virus can travel. Also, the virus is in blobs of snot and spit - those blobs are much larger than the virus, and can be blocked by your mask. Here's another test. Try blowing a mouth full of water out through your mask. Or, if you're the experimental type, get a household spray bottle and try to spray it through your mask. You'll see that it is quite effective. It's not perfect, but it's effective. It's not magic, it's physics. I promise not to question your manhood if you wear one. I don't promise not to question your humanity if you don't.

As a famous idiot once said, what have you got to lose?

Joe Mancuso

Hey, Bailey, I'll meet you at the bar and we can have a drink and talk about how silly it is to ask people to wear masks. Oh, wait...

Bailey Jones

I can slip one of those bendy straws under mine.

Roy Hughes

Mr. Holt, The following article from the Mayo Clinic should answer your questions about the effectiveness of wearing a facial mask in protecting those around you.


The article should assist you with your decision in deciding to wear a face mask. If you do not care to wear one then, your best bet would be to stay home.

This information is provided by Lynne Springer

Bobby Pope

Asians have been wearing masks for years and it doesn't appear to be very effective. Washing your hands and not being stupid goes a long way.

Ray Taft

“There may be some confusion because early in the pandemic, health agencies and our own experts recommended that the public not wear masks.” You bet there is, and it’s on purpose.

The reason we are seeing more cases of the China virus is because more people are being tested.

The sudden spike in cases was due to the release of backlogged data by health officials.

We can always test less instead of more and that would reduce new cases of covid-19, and the ability of Democrats and their media minions to scare people.

The World Health Organization has said healthy people don't need to wear face masks and that doing so won't provide added protection from the coronavirus.

Masks-for-all for covid-19 is not based on sound scientific data according to politically unbiased research.

Texans have shown that we don't have to choose between jobs and health—we can have both.

Neither the City of Galveston or the State of Texas have the power to take our rights away. We have the God given rights to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Houston Dr. Steve Hotze sued Democrat Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo over her coronavirus mask mandate. Dr. Hotze contended that Hidalgo cannot issue more restrictive orders than Gov. Abbott, who has not mandated that Texans wear masks in public. And President Trump has not made wearing masks mandatory. That means the City of Galveston can’t mandate the wearing of masks.

If you’re sick, stay home. Otherwise healthy people can go forth and get their lives back.

The China virus scare doesn’t mean we loose our rights. Enough is enough. We can’t yield to Democrats and their allies to strip us of our rights.

Every citizen can do as they please because of the government’s double standards.

Democrats want to release prisoners into the public. If masks were the end all to preventing a China virus infection, they would just give masks to the prisoners and leave them where they are.

If people can go out and protest and create all sorts of havoc, without the same government officials telling them to stop because they’re not wearing masks, then no one really needs to wear a mask.

Democrats and NeverTrumps want to lock us all down, again, to stop that awful orange man. Mandatory masks and all the hype about it in TDN is a step in that direction.

Paula Flinn

We now have a mask mandate for ALL people in businesses in Galveston, to help get the number of new confirmed cases down. The convoluted logic of Less Testing = Less Cases is extremely flawed. There will still be that number of cases even if there is less or no testing.

If you get infected, you will undoubtedly will infect someone else. That someone might be an elderly person, or someone with diabetes, asthma, or immune deficiencies.

So, you can be part of the solution, wearing a mask and social distancing, or be part of the problem. We are all vulnerable to the spread of this virus. That’s what the Doctors are telling us.

Stopping testing doesn’t solve the spread of the virus. The number of hospitalizations will still be going up unless people wear masks and practice social distancing. The wearing of masks and social distancing should not be politicized. The virus doesn’t care if you’re a Rep. or a Dem. One does have a responsibility to others and to their community.

Ray Taft

Well I think it’s all a con.

But, Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden thinks it’s time to wear masks. He said 120 million people have died from COVID-19.

He was only off by roughly 983 times the actual mark.

Biden’s gaffe was not reported by the fake news media because they want us to believe it. I think it’s all a con, like the constant hype about wearing masks in TDN.

Carlos Ponce

Ray, if Trump had said it we would here it 24/7.

Carlos Ponce

Ray, if Trump had said it we would hear it 24/7.

jimmy winston

Trump also said to inject ourselves with disinfectant

Carlos Ponce

"Trump also said to inject ourselves with disinfectant" He never did, Jimmy. He wondered aloud if we could do "something like that" i combat the Chinese Wuhan Virus. But believe what you want. It does not matter. Trump is going to win in November.

Wayne D Holt

We now have a mask mandate for ALL people in businesses in Galveston, to help get the number of new confirmed cases down. The convoluted logic of Less Testing = Less Cases is extremely flawed. There will still be that number of cases even if there is less or no testing.

Ms. Flinn, I don't know if you realize it but you yourself have just exhibited convoluted logic in your statement. I would gladly vote for 20 times the current confirmed case count...IF the mortality rate and ICU utilization rate was dropping, simply because that would mean a greater and greater percentage of the population would have been exposed while fewer and fewer were significantly impacted by it.

People seem to forget flattening the curve was never about reducing the absolute number of folks who were exposed; it was about trying to manage a huge surge that would overwhelm the medical system's ability to effectively deal with it. Unless you plan on wearing scuba gear while dressed as Bib the Michelin man for the rest of your life, you are going to be exposed to this or some other virus threat. All we can do is strengthen our immune system with healthy eating, adequate rest, lowered stress and avoidance of obviously risky indoor, closely packed visits.

As one of the European researchers pointed out, the median age of those dying from this virus was ABOVE average life expectancy for most populations. Simply put, if we are obsessing on this virus and not on our habits, diet and behavior, we are probably not facing where the real dangers are to be found.

Paula Flinn

Mr. Holt, your statement about voting “for 20 times the current confirmed case count, IF the mortality rate and ICU rate were dropping ....”. Well, they’re not! I think a statement like that is uninformed, at best, and irresponsible at worst. It’s a preposterous way to look at the problem.

Some people, even young people, who have “recovered” have blood clots in their lungs, kidney failure, and/or brain damage. They will be more likely to have a heart attack or a stroke later on. The best way to treat this disease is “not to have it at all.”

Mama used to say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That 1oz. is your cotton or paper mask Please wear it in public, practice social distancing, and quit complaining!

Gary Miller

Ray> This is a very well laid out statement. Summery: If you are not infected you can't infect anyone. No mask needed. If you are infected stay home. No mask needed. NY governor made a very telling statement. He said 40 % of the states victims were infected while wearing a mask by people wearing masks.

Paula Flinn

“If you are not infected, you cannot infect anyone”. That’s what all those people in the coffee shop thought when they got infected. I’m sure that’s what the President’s people thought, the ones who handled his rally and later on tested positive for it.

NY Governor Cuomo has no way of knowing what percentage of the state’s victims were Infected while wearing a mask, by other people wearing masks. That’s ludicrous! I don’t believe he said that.

You guys who won’t wear masks need to stay home. You could have the virus, spread it, and not know it.

This is a medical emergency, not a political contest. Follow what the Doctors say to keep you safe. They don’t care what Trump or Biden says. Trump & Biden aren’t medical doctors. This virus will go away sooner if everyone does what the doctors say.

Ray Taft

No medical emergency. Wearing a mask has been politicized by Democrats and their media minions.

It’s about politics because they want our economy to fail, to scare everyone and to cheat with mail in ballots.

Gary Miller

Cuomo said 40 % not counting nursing home cases. NY deaths were 51 % in nursing homes. Truth? Healthy person can't infect anyone with or without a mask. Sick person should not be in public, with or without a mask.

Paula Flinn

Yesterday, VP Pence & Dr. Birx in Dallas, along with Governor Abbott, recommended wearing masks in public, because you can have the virus, spread it, and not know it for a few days or Up to two weeks.

Quit politicizing wearing masks. The current VP is wearing one now.

Chris Cuomo (who had COVID-19). said there is a second disease, “...the toxic infection of ignorance and arrogance.” Now masks are mandated in businesses in Galveston, even Home Depot.

Carlos Ponce

Wear two to be safe, Paula.

jimmy winston

Just your friendly reminder that everyone in power in this community all the way up to your president is a republican that you likely voted for. I dont understand why you are not okay with the government madating masks, but you are okay with the police breaking up a peaceful protest with tear gas and rubber bullets so President trump can make a hollow photo op. Talk about government overreach.

Carlos Ponce

"peaceful protest" No.

"tear gas" Not in Lafayette Park.

Misinformation, Jimmy.

Ray Taft

It’s the Democrats who are ok with what’s going on in their Democrat run cities. And maybe you don’t want to admit it, but there’s lots of Democrats in local positions around the Houston/Galveston area.

And all Democrats in local positions in all those Democrat run places were there’s riots, looting, arson and anarchy. But there’s a really good solution.

This election everyone should vote RED - Remove Every Democrat.

Carol Hollaway

Thank goodness for Dr. Raimer and Mayor Jim Yarbrough for their exemplary leadership! I wish the GDN had posted Dr. Rainer’s column yesterday so that City Council had the wisdom of his words to support their important decision. Rather, the Council meeting drug on and on because of a misinformed few.

The bottom line is that Council made the right decision and now we can breathe a “soft sigh” of relief knowing that a trip to the grocery is not a life-or-death decision.

Ted Gillis

Ray, Dr. Steve Hotze is always sticking his nose in other people’s business other than his own. He had a chance to run for political office. I don’t think ever got alerted to anything. He does come by his opinions naturally though, as his mother was just as nosy as he is. I can remember my mother coming home from either a scouts, home room or alter society meeting back where we all grew up on the west side of Houston. If mom was in an foul mood and fussing at us kids, we knew that Margaret Hotze must have been at that meeting spewing some her latest John Birch Society horse hooey. We’d discovered it best in those situations to just mix mom something to drink from dad’s liquor cabinet, set the HiFi on KQUE and quietly slip out the back door.

And Ray, I’m not even sure what kind of doctor the Dr. Steve Hotze is.

Jim Forsythe

Ted, you are right about Dr. Steve Hotze. I googled his name, but will not post what I found because he may sue me as he has others.

Ted Gillis

Maybe I should be scared, but I’m not. It’s funny how some people can be ashamed of their reputations and are willing to sue when they are called out on it, when in reality they are the ones solely responsible for it.

Paula Flinn

From Bishop Gary Mueller

“Jesus and Masks”

“There is a large-scale resurgence of Covid-19 in much of the country. And things are going to get worse. Thousands of people will die. Millions will suffer - especially those on the margins - because the economy is shattered. And all of us will be involved in deep soul searching for years to come. Why? Because some people think it’s a hoax. Because there is mass denial about what we’re dealing with. And because some people just don’t care. Let me be just as clear as I can. How we respond to Covid-19 is a spiritual matter of the highest magnitude for those of us who love Jesus. That’s because loving Jesus means living the Jesus way; not just in our heads, but with our lives. And Jesus, our Lord and Savior, tells us we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. This means thinking about the well-being of our neighbors. Reaching out to our neighbors. Doing those things that make a concrete difference for our neighbors. And right now this means doing one simple thing - wear a mask.“

Carlos Ponce

Jesus didn't wear a mask when he came in contact with a leper, a person declared "unclean" in that day.

Ray Taft


Jim Forsythe

Carlos, I thought I had heard it all. Now you are saying, do not wear a mask because Jesus walked with lepers.

About 95% of the world’s population is immune to leprosy. We have only 200 new cases a year in the U.S. so comparing it to corona19 makes no sense.

Stop at the National Hansen’s Disease Museum, to learn more about Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) located in Carville, Louisiana.

Are you saying that God and Jesus do not want us to protect ourselves and others?

Carlos Ponce

I don't know Bishop Gary Mueller but I place my faith in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Bishop should re-read the Word of the Lord. I would not use the Lord's name in vain. "Wear a mask" is not a quote from Jesus.

Paula Flinn

Jesus is God. His Divinity protected him, Carlos. Strange you should bring that up. Trump & Pence are not gods. VP Pence wore a mask in Dallas Saturday. Finally changed his tune at the end of June.

Carlos Ponce

"Jesus is God. His Divinity protected him, Carlos." And my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will protect me. Oh ye of little faith!

Paula Flinn

If you survive hospitalization, there is still a chance of long term major organ impact, blood clots, strokes, and/or brain damage. Ppl ages 18-49 now make up 35% of positive cases in the US, and the federal government is shutting down funds for testing and telling health insurance companies NOT to cover any more tests just as testing is needed most... this administration become part of the problem.

Carlos Ponce

Paula posts, "shutting down funds for testing"

You posted about Pence in Dallas but apparently did not hear him.

“Frankly, in consultation with the Governor, and at the urging of both of your Senators, we’ll be extending that every bit as long as Texas wants us to. This is all hands on deck. We’re going to make sure not only do we continue the testing at those five sites, but the Governor needs additional public resources to expand testing. That will be made available.” VP Pence

Abbott added, “The state of Texas would have operational control of not just those. The goal and the capability was going to be able to expand even more testing sites and do even more testing.”

Ted Gillis

Carlos, you’re beginning to sound like a Branch Covidian.

Carlos Ponce

Ted [thumbdown].

Bailey Jones


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