Public Health Directors weigh in on if masks will become more common during flu season

Posted at 5:00 AM, Apr 15, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Several public health directors said they think masks could become more popular during flu seasons to prevent the spread of the illness.

"This pandemic, if nothing else, is really an opportunity for us to make some great improvements in our society," Christine Schuyler, the public health director of Chautauqua County, said.

One of those improvements may just be be sick individuals wearing masks.

"I personally don't think we'll see a mandate along those lines, but I think people have seen with our flu numbers being lower this year, there is some credence to wearing masks especially if you're sick protecting yourself and protecting others," Paul Pettit, the public health director of Genesee and Orleans Counties, said.

"I think it might be a recommendation on behalf of public health in the future. That when there is a respiratory illness that individuals that may have this respiratory illness that they do wear a face mask and that they do social distance,"Dr. Kevin Watkins, the public health director of Cattaraugus County, said.

These public health directors said they've seen the benefits of people wearing masks during flu season already. According to the New York State Flu Tracker, there has been around a 97% drop in flu cases between the 2019-2020 flu season and the 2020-2021 flu season.

"We have noted that the influenza virus has been almost minimal in New York state. If we can continue that, wearing a face mask and practicing social distancing when there is a respiratory virus out there, then we could really potentially reduce the number of illnesses that we see in the workplace and schools," Dr. Watkins said.