The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped life as we know it. Many people are staying home, avoiding people on the street and altering day by day habits, like going to school or work, in ways we never imagined.
While we are changing old behaviours, there are new routines we need to adopt. At first is the habit of wearing a mask or face covering each time we’re in a public space.
Primarily based on our prior work in outbreaks of infectious diseases, we all know that clear, constant messages about what folks can do to protect themselves and their community 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 (additionally 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 modifications the way we see the world. Thanks to the tireless efforts of scientists in all places, we have now compressed years of analysis on the COVID-19 virus into months. This has led to a speedy evolution of policies and recommendations, and never surprisingly some skepticism about the advice of experts.
These are some of the things we’ve realized:
Masks and face coverings can prevent the wearer from transmitting the COVID-19 virus to others and may provide some protection to the wearer. A number of studies have shown that face coverings can comprise droplets expelled from the wearer, which are responsible for the majority of transmission of the virus. This ‘source control’ approach reflects a shift in thinking from a ‘medical’ perspective (will it protect the wearer?) to a ‘public health’ perspective (will it help reduce group transmission and risk for everybody?).
Many people with COVID-19 are unaware they’re carrying the virus. It is estimated that forty% of persons with COVID-19 are asymptomatic but potentially able to transmit the virus to others. Within the absence widespread screening tests, we’ve no way of identifying many people who find themselves silently transmitting the virus in their community.
Common masks use can significantly reduce virus transmission locally by stopping anyone, together with those who are unwittingly carrying the virus, from transmitting it to others. Disease modeling suggests masks worn by significant parts of the population, coupled with other measures, may lead to substantial reductions in case numbers and deaths.
Masks aren’t perfect obstacles to transmission, but they don’t have to be perfect in the event that they aren’t used alone. Common masks use should be accompanied by other public health measures akin to physical distancing, testing, contact tracing and restrictions on massive gatherings. These measures aren’t good both, however when many imperfect measures are combined at a neighborhood level, they are often very efficient at slowing transmission and reducing infections.
Masks may also reduce the inequitable impact of the pandemic, particularly for those who live in crowded environments the place physical distancing is tough, and for those who work in frontline roles the place there’s a better risk of publicity to the virus.
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