Wearing a mask is important, Dr. Zane Saul pointed out, but it’s only effective if worn properly.

The chief of infectious disease at Bridgeport Hospital fully supports wearing masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. He said he’s proud that most of the people he’s encountered in Connecticut appear to understand the importance of masks, and seem willing to don a face covering for the sake of the public good.

However, Saul said, while he appreciates the good intentions, too many people are wearing their masks incorrectly.

“I really have observed people not covering their noses and just covering their mouths,” he said. “It’s just as important to cover your nose.”

Dr. Daniel Gottschall, vice president of medical affairs for the Fairfield region of Hartford HealthCare and St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, agreed. He said evidence has shown that COVID-19 is primarily transmitted from person to person, via fluids excreted from the mouth and nose not just during coughing and sneezing, but also talking, laughing, singing and other activities.

“By wearing a mask you’re keeping a lot of those secretions inside of you,” Gottschall said. “If you wear it just over your nose or just over your mouth and you’re not diligent (about keeping it in place), you’re exposing the secretions that come out of that part of the body to other people.”

Saul said another major problem that he sees is people removing their masks improperly. He said a mask should be removed by reaching back and gently pulling it off the ears, and putting it away, face down without ever touching the front of the mask.

“You want to avoid contact with bare hands (and the) front of the mask, because you can contaminate yourself in the process,” Saul said.

Saul and Gottschall said mask wearing is key to controlling the COVID-19 spread, but people need to do it properly — even if it doesn’t feel great.

“I had people in today telling me that they can’t breathe (in a mask) or that it’s itching them,” Saul said. “I know it’s unnatural, but it’s incredibly important.”

He pointed out that, working in a hospital, he has to wear a mask roughly 12 hours a day. “I’ve gotten used to it,” Saul said. “I can’t say it’s my favorite thing, but I’ve gotten used to it.”

Gottschall agreed that proper mask wearing is essential.

“We’ve learned lots of lessons about masks,” he said. “And when the books are written on this (pandemic), I think it will show that one of the opportunities we missed is putting masks on ourselves sooner.”