The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped life as we all know it. Many of us are staying residence, avoiding folks on the street and changing each day habits, like going to school or work, in ways we never imagined.
While we’re altering old behaviours, there are new routines we need to adopt. In the beginning is the behavior of wearing a masks or face covering whenever we’re in a public space.
Based 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 community are critical. By that measure, the messaging on masks has been confusing.
Early within the pandemic, the general public was told to not wear masks. This was driven by the longstanding recognition that normal 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 knowledge and understanding, and it inevitably modifications the best way we see the world. Because of the tireless efforts of scientists all over the place, we have compressed years of analysis on the COVID-19 virus into months. This has led to a rapid evolution of insurance policies and suggestions, and not surprisingly some skepticism about the advice of experts.
These are a few of the things we’ve learned:
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 studies have shown that face coverings can contain droplets expelled from the wearer, which are responsible 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 everyone?).
Many people with COVID-19 are unaware they’re carrying the virus. It’s estimated that forty% of persons with COVID-19 are asymptomatic however potentially able to transmit the virus to others. Within the absence widespread screening tests, we have no method of identifying many people who are silently transmitting the virus of their community.
Universal mask use can significantly reduce virus transmission locally by preventing anyone, together with those that are unwittingly carrying the virus, from transmitting it to others. Illness modeling suggests masks worn by significant parts of the population, coupled with other measures, could result in substantial reductions in case numbers and deaths.
Masks will not be perfect barriers to transmission, but they don’t should be perfect if they aren’t used alone. Universal masks use should be accompanied by different public health measures such as physical distancing, testing, contact tracing and restrictions on large gatherings. These measures aren’t good both, however when many imperfect measures are combined at a group level, they can be very efficient at slowing transmission and reducing infections.
Masks may also reduce the inequitable impact of the pandemic, notably for those who live in crowded environments where physical distancing is troublesome, and for those who work in frontline roles the place there is a greater risk of publicity to the virus.
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