Why wearing a mask is a very powerful thing

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped life as we know it. Many people are staying home, avoiding individuals on the street and altering daily habits, like going to school or work, in methods we never imagined.

While we are altering old behaviours, there are new routines we need to adopt. At the beginning is the behavior of wearing a mask or face covering whenever we’re in a public space.

Based mostly on our prior work in outbreaks of infectious diseases, we know that clear, consistent messages about what folks can do to protect themselves and their group are critical. By that measure, the messaging on masks has been confusing.

Early in the pandemic, the general public was told not to wear masks. This was driven by the longstanding recognition that commonplace surgical masks (also called medical masks) are inadequate to protect the wearer from many respiratory pathogens, as well as the concern about diverting limited supplies from healthcare settings.

Science is the pursuit of information and understanding, and it inevitably changes the way in which we see the world. Thanks to the tireless efforts of scientists in every single place, we now have compressed years of research on the COVID-19 virus into months. This has led to a speedy evolution of policies and proposals, and not surprisingly some skepticism in regards to the advice of experts.

These are a few of the things we’ve discovered:

Masks and face coverings can forestall the wearer from transmitting the COVID-19 virus to others and should provide some protection to the wearer. A number of research have shown that face coverings can contain droplets expelled from the wearer, which are accountable for almost all of transmission of the virus. This ‘source management’ approach displays a shift in thinking from a ‘medical’ perspective (will it protect the wearer?) to a ‘public health’ perspective (will it assist reduce community transmission and risk for everybody?).

Many individuals with COVID-19 are unaware they’re carrying the virus. It is estimated that forty% of persons with COVID-19 are asymptomatic but doubtlessly able to transmit the virus to others. Within the absence widespread screening tests, we’ve no manner of identifying many people who are silently transmitting the virus in their community.

Common mask use can significantly reduce virus transmission in the community by preventing anyone, including those that are unwittingly carrying the virus, from transmitting it to others. Illness modeling suggests masks worn by significant portions of the inhabitants, coupled with other measures, might end in substantial reductions in case numbers and deaths.

Masks are not perfect limitations to transmission, but they don’t must be excellent if they aren’t used alone. Common masks use needs to be accompanied by other public health measures similar to physical distancing, testing, contact tracing and restrictions on giant gatherings. Those measures aren’t good both, however when many imperfect measures are combined at a group level, they are often very efficient at slowing transmission and reducing infections.

Masks can even reduce the inequitable impact of the pandemic, notably for individuals who live in crowded environments where physical distancing is difficult, and for those who work in frontline roles where there is a higher risk of exposure to the virus.

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