By Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) – During this time of rapidly changing information on coronavirus, Dr. Mallika Marshall has been answering your questions. You can submit them to her on Facebook or Twitter.

Marcia & Frank both asked: I keep hearing conflicting messages about masks. Should everyone wear one or not?

Dr. Mallika: The special N95 masks should be reserved for healthcare workers who are at the greatest risk of getting infected from sick patients. But, in terms of regular masks, health officials are reconsidering whether everyone should wear one while out in public – not really to protect the person wearing the mask, but to protect the people around them.

Many people may be infected but have no symptoms and could be spreading the virus in the community without even knowing it. But, officials stress, right now, hospital-grade masks should be reserved for healthcare workers who remain in dire need of them, so use handmade masks instead.

Holly, Facebook: What is the current backlog of testing and when will labs get caught up so we can get more accurate data?

Dr. Mallika: As you know there has been a shortage of test kits and even when people do get tested, sometimes the results don’t come back for days, which makes it hard to assess where the virus is and how it’s spreading. Fortunately, the FDA recently granted emergency-use authorization for a new coronavirus test that can give results in less than 15 minutes. They expect to roll them out this week and hope to run as many as 50,000 tests a day.

Laureen & Gail both asked: Once a person contracts this virus, does that person build an immunity to it? Can they get it again?

Dr. Mallika: We know that people who have been infected do develop antibodies and are probably protected from getting it again for some period of time. But for how long, we don’t know. That protection could wear off after months or a few years which is why having a vaccine eventually will be so important.

Vinny, Millis: What if I order pizza and a worker accidentally coughs on it. Could I get sick from eating the pizza?

Dr. Mallika: We don’t believe that you can catch the virus from eating contaminated foods. And the virus does not like high temperatures, so cooking the pizza should kill any virus that might be on it. However, if the worker coughed on the box that the pizza is in and you touched the box and then touched your nose or your eyes, you could possibly become infected. So I would suggest whenever you get takeout or delivery food, remove the food from the containers it came in and use your own plates. Also wash your hands well after handling the bags and plastic containers.

Dr. Mallika Marshall

  1. Luke Schneider says:

    I would like a better explanation regarding masks. What you said is illogical. We know that people can be asymptomatic but still carry the virus. Wearing a face covering would help prevent people like that or people who are asymptomatic in the first few days of infection from spreading it to others. Something… anything is better than nothing as we have seen in reports of healthcare workers using makeshift masks (bandanas, scarfs etc.)

    I understand that there is a shortage and that healthcare workers should have priority access to N95 masks and surgical masks. That being said it seems wildly misleading to say that a “healthy” member of the public shouldn’t wear one when going to the supermarket, pharmacy, etc. That person may or may not be healthy. Covering one’s face with anything does have some positive effect and that effect would be amplified if everyone practiced covering their faces in public.

    What you said, what the CDC and the WHO are saying seems like a misguided attempt to prevent the public from buying up all the more effective masks. It seems too late for that. If I am right, a question presents itself: Is misleading the public in regard to mask wearing good because it frees up masks for healthcare workers? Or is it quickening the spread of COVID-19 by preventing the public from protecting themselves, and one another, as fully as possible?

    In my, admittedly, unprofessional opinion the latter seems to be the case. I think leaders, doctors, professionals and scientists should be honest with the public and trust that they will donate the N95s and surgical masks they have in their possession to hospitals and build/use makeshift masks for themselves. I believe the majority of people will understand what I am advocating for and act accordingly to protect society as a whole. I would like to hear your thoughts on this. Thank you.

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