The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped life as we know it. Many of us are staying house, avoiding individuals on the street and altering daily habits, like going to school or work, in methods we never imagined.
While we’re altering old behaviours, there are new routines we have to adopt. Before everything is the habit of wearing a mask or face covering whenever we are in a public space.
Based mostly on our prior work in outbreaks of infectious illnesses, we all 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 pushed by the longstanding recognition that standard surgical masks (additionally called medical masks) are inadequate to protect the wearer from many respiratory pathogens, as well as the priority about diverting restricted provides from healthcare settings.
Science is the pursuit of information and understanding, and it inevitably changes the way in which we see the world. Because of the tireless efforts of scientists in all places, we’ve got compressed years of analysis on the COVID-19 virus into months. This has led to a fast evolution of policies and suggestions, and not surprisingly some skepticism concerning the advice of experts.
These are among the things we’ve discovered:
Masks and face coverings can prevent the wearer from transmitting the COVID-19 virus to others and may provide some protection to the wearer. Multiple studies 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 control’ 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 everybody?).
Many people with COVID-19 are unaware they are carrying the virus. It’s estimated that 40% of individuals with COVID-19 are asymptomatic but doubtlessly able to transmit the virus to others. Within the absence widespread screening tests, we’ve got no approach of identifying many people who find themselves silently transmitting the virus of their community.
Universal mask use can significantly reduce virus transmission in the community by stopping anybody, together with those who are unwittingly carrying the virus, from transmitting it to others. Disease modeling suggests masks worn by significant portions of the inhabitants, coupled with different measures, might result in substantial reductions in case numbers and deaths.
Masks are not perfect limitations to transmission, but they don’t have to be perfect if they aren’t used alone. Universal masks use needs to be accompanied by different public health measures similar to physical distancing, testing, contact tracing and restrictions on giant gatherings. Those measures aren’t good both, but when many imperfect measures are mixed at a group stage, they can be 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 the place physical distancing is tough, and for individuals who work in frontline roles the place there is a higher risk of exposure to the virus.
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