Why Wearing A Mask Is A Very Powerful Thing
While we're changing old behaviours, there are new routines we need to adopt. Initially is the habit of wearing a mask or face covering each time we're in a public space.
Based on our prior work in outbreaks of infectious diseases, we all know that clear, constant messages about what individuals 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 to not wear masks. This was pushed by the longstanding recognition that commonplace surgical masks (also called medical masks) are insufficient to protect the wearer from many respiratory pathogens, as well as the concern about diverting limited provides from healthcare settings.
Science is the pursuit of data and understanding, and it inevitably changes the best way we see the world. Due to the tireless efforts of scientists in every single place, we have compressed years of analysis on the COVID-19 virus into months. This has led to a fast evolution of policies and proposals, and never surprisingly some skepticism in regards to the advice of experts.
These are among the things we’ve discovered:
Masks and face coverings can stop the wearer from transmitting the COVID-19 virus to others and will provide some protection to the wearer. Multiple research have shown that face coverings can contain droplets expelled from the wearer, which are accountable for the majority 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 help reduce community transmission and risk for everyone?).
Many people with COVID-19 are unaware they're carrying the virus. It is estimated that forty% of individuals with COVID-19 are asymptomatic but potentially able to transmit the virus to others. Within the absence widespread screening tests, we now have no method of identifying many people who find themselves silently transmitting the virus in their community.
Universal mask use can significantly reduce virus transmission in the neighborhood by stopping anybody, 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 different measures, may end in substantial reductions in case numbers and deaths.
Masks are usually not perfect limitations to transmission, however they don’t must be perfect if they aren’t used alone. Common mask use must be accompanied by other public health measures akin to physical distancing, testing, contact tracing and restrictions on large gatherings. These measures aren’t excellent both, but when many imperfect measures are mixed at a community stage, they are often very efficient at slowing transmission and reducing infections.
Masks may reduce the inequitable impact of the pandemic, particularly for individuals who live in crowded environments where physical distancing is tough, and for individuals who work in frontline roles where there's a better risk of publicity to the virus.
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