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KY Brain Cancer Survivor Speaks Out on Mask-Wearing

The "Wear It For Me" campaign aims to raise awareness about mask-wearing and how it helps protect family and friends from COVID-19. (Adobe Stock)
The "Wear It For Me" campaign aims to raise awareness about mask-wearing and how it helps protect family and friends from COVID-19. (Adobe Stock)
August 3, 2020

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Back in June, 39-year-old Louisville resident Ben Smith suffered a seizure and subsequently learned he had brain cancer. He says the experience has deeply affected how he views mask-wearing and its role in curbing the spread of coronavirus.

Smith, who is currently undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatments, said he now faces a higher risk from COVID-19 since he is immuno-compromised. But, he said, you'd never know by looking at him.

"I appear as an otherwise very able-bodied, younger to middle-age male," Smith said. "So a lot of times, you're just not aware, you don't know who you could be around that could be affected by COVID. And it's just why it's all the more important for us to look past ourselves and realize that we're all in this together."

Research has indicated masks also reduce the wearer's chances of contracting the virus by as much as 65%. To date, more than 31,000 Kentuckians have tested positive for COVID-19, and more than 740 have died.

President of the Kentucky Medical Association Dr. Brent Wright said there's growing evidence that people without symptoms are unknowingly passing the virus to others.

"Before people show symptoms, the virus load of COVID-19 is the highest," Wright said. "Which means they don't appear sick, and if they don't wear a mask, they're talking to others and they're spreading that virus to them."

One study of a COVID-19 outbreak in an Italian town found around 40% of people that tested positive were asymptomatic.

Ben Chandler, CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said the "Wear It for Me" campaign, launched this month, urges all Kentuckians to wear a mask in indoor spaces and when they can't maintain a six-foot distance from others. His organization, the Kentucky Medical Association and Kentucky Foundation for Medical Care collaborated on the campaign.

"It's extremely important for people to understand that this thing is very far from over and that it has great danger to a whole lot of people," Chandler said. "We can get back to normal quicker only if we wear our masks and only if we pay attention to social distancing."

Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation show more than 40% of adults in Kentucky under age 65 are at higher risk of serious coronavirus complications due to underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, kidney and lung disease and a weakened immune system.

Disclosure: Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Health Issues, Smoking Prevention, Youth Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY