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Americans will be wearing masks for several years, coronavirus expert says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) —A coronavirus expert with Johns Hopkins University believes Americans will be wearing masks for several years.

Eric Toner, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said face coverings are a vital when trying to slow the spread of the virus.

Toner has been researching what government, businesses and citizens would do in the face on a public health outbreak, like the novel coronavirus, since last year.

Speaking with CNET for the series "Hacking the Apocalypse," Toner said he believes masks will be the "new normal" for years to come.

“I think that mask wearing and some degree of social distancing, we will be living with — hopefully living with happily — for several years,” Toner said. “It's actually pretty straightforward. If we cover our faces, and both you and anyone you're interacting with are wearing a mask, the risk of transmission goes way down.”

There are now several counties in Tennessee that require masks. This comes as COVID-19 cases have been on the rise.

Decisions by leaders haven't come without pushback from those not wishing to wear a mask.

“They will get over it," Toner said about people who aren't wearing masks at the moment. "It's just a question of how many people get sick and die before they get over it."

That sentiment is being echoed by local health experts, like Meharry Medical CEO Dr. Hildreth who says we can to help slow the spread is to wear a mask. However, recently, Dr. Hildreth said this has become politicized, or contextualized as being weak or forgoing our constitutional rights.

“It’s been a long time since I read the Constitution but I read it, and there’s nothing in the constitution that I’m aware of that gives me the right to put your health at risk," Dr. Hildreth said.

And that’s exactly what is being done for those who aren’t wearing masks in the middle of a pandemic with a potentially fatal virus circulating.

“That’s why I wear a mask, so as not to put your health at risk and to protect my health by doing so," Dr. Hildreth said.

There’s been dissonance among public health experts about wearing masks – but now Dr. Hildreth said they're all singing from the same sheet of music.

“And the song we're singing is: All of us, every one of us should be wearing a mask if we want to put this virus behind us," Dr. Hildreth said.

Toner was part of a pandemic simulation in 2019 that showed a "massive preparedness gap."

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