Public health experts have repeatedly called for people to use face masks during the coronavirus pandemic, saying that they are more effective in protecting both the wearer and the people around them from COVID-19 than wearing nothing.
However, a growing number of skeptics have pushed back against the idea, something that upset U.K. doctor Tom Lawton, and inspired him to run 22 miles while wearing a face mask to prove that they are safe.
Lawton, who works as an ICU doctor at the Bradford Royal Infirmary in Yorkshire, England, wanted to prove to skeptics that wearing a face mask does not impair oxygen levels.
“One particular tweet broke me,” Lawton told Good Morning America. “It was from someone that was not a medical doctor, showing a pair of pictures and said masks are dangerous, don't wear them. I had to come up with a way to demonstrate just how safe they are.”
Lawton, 39, put on a pulse oximeter, a device that measures the oxygen saturation in a person’s red blood cells, and set out for an 8-mile jog with a mask on. After his blood oxygen never dropped below 98%, a friend challenged him to do it again.
He did, this time raising 3,661 pounds (4,794 U.S. dollars) in the process for a local food bank through GoFundMe.
The doctor ran an additional 14 miles as part of the challenge, clocking in a total of 22 miles in one day, all with a face mask on the entire time. Lawton’s blood oxygen level stayed at a steady 98% throughout his run, and he says he “barely noticed” the mask during the first 30 minutes of his run.
While he said that eventually the cloth got wet from humidity and sweat, at no point did the mask feel “restricting.”
"If I can run with a mask, you should be able to wear one in the shops," Lawton said. "That's the key thing and that's how the mask is going to help against coronavirus. I hope people understand that wearing a mask is not dangerous."