We are dealing with an unfortunate and dangerous situation in our nation: Certain politicians are recklessly claiming that masks do little to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and are going as far as encouraging people not to wear them, acting as if public safety is a political issue.
Are masks 100% effective? No, no one is saying that. But they are, without question, effective in dramatically reducing your risk.
People who are forced to wear masks for long periods have another concern, and they are being fed misinformation. Their question, “Does wearing a medical/surgical mask or cloth face covering cause unsafe oxygen levels or harmful carbon dioxide levels to the wearer?” is best answered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
“No. Medical masks, including surgical masks, are routinely worn by healthcare workers throughout the day as part of their personal protective equipment ensembles and do not compromise their oxygen levels or cause carbon dioxide buildup. They are designed to be breathed through and can protect against respiratory droplets, which are typically much larger than tiny carbon dioxide particles. Consequently, most carbon dioxide particles will either go through the mask or escape along the mask’s loose-fitting perimeter. Some carbon dioxide might collect between the mask and the wearer’s face, but not at unsafe levels. Workers may easily remove their medical masks or cloth face coverings periodically (and when not in close proximity with others) to eliminate any negligible buildup of carbon dioxide that might occur.”
Why anyone would feed misinformation to front-line workers is incomprehensible to me, but suffice it to say, I strongly encourage all drivers to PROPERLY wear their masks when passengers are in the car with them (that means wearing it over your mouth and nose), make sure that you wash your hands frequently and sanitize your vehicle between each customer.
It is also within your rights to ask passengers to wear a mask, but please be careful. The lies and rhetoric being fed to the public concerning the efficacy of masks have made some people hostile. To help protect you, I strongly recommend that you not allow any passengers to sit in the front seat next to you, further protect yourself with a dashcam that records everything that goes on inside and outside of your vehicle, and consider having a partition installed.
“At a time like this, everyone is concerned about public health. Dividers not only protect you from potential exposure but also ensure a safe riding environment for your customers,” said Michael Bednark, founder of NYC Taxi Divider. “We’ve heard many drivers say that customers are starting to expect dividers in their vehicles.”
Mr. Bednark also recommends rolling down your windows whenever possible, but adds, “With cold weather coming, it will be harder to have windows down at all times, so a partition is especially important to ensure driver and passenger safety.”
We have a long road ahead of us. It could be many months before a COVID-19 vaccine is readily available to the public. So, please take all the proper precautions to protect yourself and your passengers – and be sure to advertise that fact to everyone who enters your car. I know that business is still historically slow, due to COVID-19, but one of the best ways to get passengers back into For-Hire Vehicles is to assure them you are doing everything in your power to ensure their safety.