Making sense of ‘face mask at home’ advice: Filipinos weigh in amid rise in COVID-19 cases

March 17, 2021 - 6:07 PM
Family with face mask
Illustration of a family wearing face masks as protection against virus. (Image from mohamed_hassan via Pixabay)

The call for Filipinos to wear face masks at their own residences to help prevent the spike of the COVID-19 cases in the country prompted social media to weigh its merits and perceived drawbacks.

The health department earlier this week said that minimum health protocols should be followed in households, especially those with family members who are vulnerable to the virus such as the elderly and those with comorbidities.

“Hindi lang sa public places o workplaces,” Dr. Althea de Guzman, DOH’s epidemiology bureau chief, said in a public briefing on Monday.

“Pero kinakailangan talaga kahit sa bahay, lalo na ‘pag may kasama tayong matanda o may ibang sakit tulad ng hypertension o diabetes,” she added.

Jonathan Malaya, undersecretary of the Interior and Local Government, likewise reiterated the stance and said that if one is not sure of being infected, he or she should just wear a face mask at home.

This advice was suggested after a group of doctors noted that there is “family clustering” of COVID-19 cases wherein people who are living together or in one household are contracting the virus.

“Dati ang COVID nakukuha sa workplace, pero ngayon, pami-pamilya na. Dahil nagkaroon po ng COVID fatigue ang ating mga kababayan, simula nang nagsimula ang immunization program,” Malaya said in the briefing.

“We really need to do that. Especially kung galing ka sa labas, hindi ka naman sigurado, mag-face mask ka na lang para hindi mo mahawaan ang iyong mga kapamilya,” he added.

Malaya said that since authorities cannot police the public in their houses, it is up to them to have a sense of “individual discipline” and “individual responsibility” when it comes to practicing COVID-19 safety protocols.

Dr. Pauline Convocar, president of the Philippine College of Emergency Medicine, noticed that “many families are going for consultation.”

Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinge, World Health Organization Representative to the Philippines, also backed the findings.

“That’s where the new variants have been confirmed, they’re seeing not individual cases in households, but practically everybody in the household being infected,” he said.

Mask up or mask not?

Some Filipinos agreed with the call to wear their face masks at home while others were not convinced by the officials’ advice.

“If you’re practicing minimum health and safety protocols in workplaces, partnered with good physical hygiene properly, then you don’t need to wear face mask at home,” a Twitter user said in response to the reports.

“Face mask won’t do s*it, if you’re living together! Make it make sense,” another online user exclaimed.

A Twitter user wondered why people have been calling the idea “stupid.”

“Don’t know why people find this stupid. We do this now. 1) Me the runner ng household, 2) My dad who is recovering from COVID, 3) My healthy sister na ‘di lumalabas ng house. Mali ba?” he tweeted.

Another Twitter user shared of practicing the safety measure “prior to the pandemic.”

“This makes sense if you are exposed doing ESSENTIAL things outside your residence and you want to protect your co-residents especially those with comorbidities. It’s not rocket science. It’s common sense,” he wrote.

The safety measure can also be found on the website of the United States’ Centers for Disease Control Prevention.

“Wear a mask inside your home if someone you live with is sick with symptoms of COVID-19 or has tested positive for COVID-19,” it said.

CDC further specified that one should wear a face mask in the following cases:

  • When you are around people who do not live with you, including inside your home or inside someone else’s home. 
  • Inside your home if someone you live with is sick with symptoms of COVID-19 or has tested positive for COVID-19. 

The World Health Organization also advises the public to wear a face mask if a visitor comes to their house and they cannot maintain physical distance cannot or if the ventilation is poor.

As of Wednesday, the Philippines has logged a total number of 635,698 COVID-19 cases. Of which, 61,733 are active cases.

It is now the sixth day that the country has reported more than 4,000 additional number of daily cases.