With the new COVID 19 cases emerging in Missoula County recently, County Health Officer Ellen Leahy said on Tuesday that this type of virus expansion is what the health department has been hoping wouldn't happen, but has been planning for.

“This is what a pandemic disease will do,” said Leahy. “This is what we’ve been preparing for and trying to forestall as well as what we’ve been trying to alert everyone to so that they can do more guard against it happing to them in their workplace or in their family.”

Leahy said many of the exposures and recent infections have come when people have their guard, and literally their masks, down.

“We would like to see more people, particularly in their workplace,” she said. “We’ve seen a lot of coworker to coworker spread. Interestingly enough, they’ve been wearing their masks mostly, if not always in these cases with their public facing work, and then taking them off when they’re not doing public facing work and spreading it among their coworkers.”

Leahy said another way that the virus is being brought into the area is through regular travel by residents.

“Residents of our community leaving the community, and perhaps the state for vacation, family functions, reunions, funerals, those types of things and bringing it back into the community,” she said. “So, those are some activities that people say ‘well, oh it’s familiar. I’m always at work and I’m only with my coworkers and the virus says ‘great, I’ve got a chance’.”

There have been conflicting studies as to the efficacy of wearing masks or face coverings; however, Leahy said there’s only one way that masks can be truly effective.

“What makes it effective is the other person wearing it to protect you and you wearing it to protect the other person,” she said. “I see it as ‘mutual masking’. It’s kind of the ultimate test of whether we’re going to see ourselves as a community, because the virus does see us a community, and so if you don’t wear the mask you’re not protecting another person and if they don’t wear the mask then they’re not protecting you, if you’re within six feet.”

The attached story from ‘Live Science’ looks at the efficacy of wearing masks, and different types of face coverings in preventing the spread of COVID 19.