Lately, much chatter in the media, as well as talk heard ’round my neighborhood, leads to one simple question. Do masks prevent the spread of Coronavirus? The answer is yes. A recent study shows wearing masks could reduce the incidence of Coronavirus by 80% or more. Are masks perfect? No. Do they work really well? Yes.
Do Masks Prevent The Spread Of Coronavirus?
Recently Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus response coordinator, emphasized there is “clear scientific evidence” that masks work. On top of that, the Annals of Internal Medicine just published a landmark analysis of 64 studies finding that masks prevent the spread of Coronaviruses and other airborne illnesses.
Half Of Americans Stay Home Due To Coronavirus
The US is plowing ahead with opening businesses to restart the economy. Unfortunately, more than half of Americans don’t yet want to leave their homes to patronize these businesses. One simple way to address this problem is to commit as a country to wearing masks.
Is Coronavirus Spread Through The Air?
Furthering mask initiatives around the US, an esteemed panel of experts from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) stated that because Coronavirus is aerosolized and lingers in the air, masks are a good option for preventing its spread. In their formal letter, the NAS panel let the current administration know that Coronavirus is transmitted not only through sneezing and coughing, but also by speaking and breathing. In effect, the Coronavirus is an airborne disease. This is why masks work, they prevent the virus from being emitted, or sprayed (heavily via sneezing, or lightly by breathing) from infected persons to others. Masks prevent the virus from spreading into and pooling in the air. For this same reason, it’s safer to be outdoors than inside, because in this scenario the virus is dispersed, rather than concentrated. Still, masks are needed both inside and outside to protect our population from infected individuals, prevent its spread, and open up our economy quickly.
Think Of Coronavirus As Glitter
It may help to think of Coronavirus as glitter. A mask is going to stop those who may have COVID-19 from efficiently spreading corona-glitter to others. In a recent article in the Washington Post, Joseph Allen from the School of Public Health at Harvard emphasizes that masks prevent the spread of Coronavirus very effectively. Getting this information out so that more people comply with wearing masks will unite our country around a cheap yet effective initiative that erases the false dichotomy between health and economics because it addresses both with fairly little effort.
What Types of Masks Are Protective Against Coronavirus?
Dr. Harvey Fineberg, head of the NAS committee that sent the letter on the effectiveness of mask use to the current administration, said he would wear a mask to the grocery store, and that among other options, items ranging from a bandana to a balaclava would work well in preventing the spread of Coronavirus. Handpicked by the current administration, Dr. Fineberg leads the NAS Standing Committee Requested by White House in Response to Coronavirus.
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Masks Save Lives
I interviewed Dr. Todd Dorfman, Director of EMS for Boulder County Colorado about the use of masks to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. He states, “Face masks combined with other preventive measures, such as social distancing, help slow the spread of the disease,” adding, “Asking everyone to wear cloth masks can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by people who have the disease but don’t realize it. Countries that required face masks early in the pandemic seem to have had the best success slowing the disease’s spread.” He pointed out that these countries also used testing far earlier and more frequently than the US at the outset of the pandemic in January.
To Mask Or Unmask
Unfortunately, asking our citizens to do the right thing when it comes to Coronavirus may not be that simple because mask use is now a very heated topic. Here in Colorado, a man walked into a restaurant in Aurora, just outside Denver. He was told he needed to wear a mask to be served. In response, he shot a restaurant employee. Thankfully, we can all agree that this extreme overreaction is not even close to an appropriate response under any circumstances.
Japan Used Masks To Prevent Spread of Coronavirus
On the other hand, an article in Forbes called New Study Shows That This One Thing Could Cause 80% Decrease in COVID-19 Cases, points out that while the US is slowly trying to reopen, Japan didn’t ever really close.
The Land of the Rising Sun has had no lockdown, no stopped subways and most businesses have remained open.
As of this writing, the US has suffered over 100,000 Coronavirus deaths, yet Japan has endured less than 1,000. While Japan’s population is around one-third of ours, they’ve suffered 1% of the deaths incurred here in the US. Why? One reason is that the Japanese have willingly used masks while waiting for a cure.
How To Use A Mask Properly To Prevent Coronavirus Spread
Dr. Dorfman pointed out that The Mayo Clinic has a simple, reasonable set of instructions for putting on and taking off a cloth mask:
- Place your mask over your mouth and nose
- Tie it behind your head or use ear loops and make sure it’s snug
- Don’t touch your mask while wearing it
- If you accidentally touch your mask, wash or sanitize your hands
- Remove the mask by untying it or lifting off the ear loops without touching the front of the mask or your face
- Wash your hands immediately after removing your mask
- Regularly wash your mask with soap and water in the washing machine, it’s fine to launder with other clothes
President Trump’s Surgeon General Recommends Wearing A Mask
It’s true, when there was a shortage, the Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Robins, advised against the use of masks. This was when we were in the initial stages of Coronavirus, unprepared, and perilously short on personal protective equipment (PPE). However, he now not only recommends mask-wearing but has a video demonstrating how to make one.
Why Didn’t Vice President Pence Wear A Mask At The Mayo Clinic
Prior to his visit, the Mayo Clinic briefed the Vice President’s team on their mandatory mask-wearing policy. Unfortunately, he did not comply. During this tragic time with so many lives lost, and little to no way to properly grieve them, it is more important than ever to show patriotism by protecting our medical warriors in any way we can. More people have died in the last 2 months than in the Korean and Vietnam wars combined. We can easily protect our front line heroes at places like the Mayo Clinic with little to no sacrifice. Why not wear a mask in public? Especially when you cannot social distance.
Why Doesn’t President Trump Wear A Mask?
Perhaps this administration thinks it would be a show of weakness to don masks everywhere. However, it’s not too late to lead by example. It would demonstrate inspiring strength and bravery for our highest public officials to wear masks in public.
Will You Wear A Mask To Prevent The Spread Of Coronavirus?
Do masks stop the spread of Coronavirus completely? No. Are they perfect? No. But let’s not allow perfect to be the enemy of the good. Masks save lives. The important thing is that we don’t let nuances deter us from the most important public causes when it comes to health. Will you wear a mask?
There is scientific evidence that states wearing a mask doesn’t prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Jedarc, thanks for your comment!
sara teigman says
The blessing and curse of a human being is the fickleness with which one is Divinely endowed in order to develop conscience and to choose truth over BS. The clarity with which someone who has figured out that, come what may, s/he will NEVER compromise their integrity is SOOO pitiFOOLy easy to be obscured and clouded….So, dear Elana – are you REALLY believing the manufacturers of health BS from the CDC (Center for Disease CREATION) about mask-wearing???? They flip-flopped on their opinion as well – so how science based can it be anyway? Please Elana! Those who think they gain from having a very sick and enslaved population love to buy off people like yourself…what happened to all those organic companies that were bought off by BIG FOOD? Did that happen to you, too? Mask-wearing is so obviously part of a fear instilling and disempowering agenda – I thought you were into empowering people…
Sara, thanks for your comment! I find wearing a seat belt empowering and also wearing a mask. It is not fear-based for me, I look to other countries like Japan for inspiration in this, they’ve worn masks and did not have to make any choices, their economy was not closed.
Brilliant Japan: if only we had listened then. We can learn a lot from other countries; unification; wear the mask to protect yourself and others.
Ro Gallagher says
Thank you for having the courage to bring up this subject. I find some of the arguments against wearing masks absurd. If any of the “antimaskers” needed surgery, would they think the OR staff should get to choose whether they wear masks?
I happily wear a mask whenever I have to be out in public. It’s only common courtesy.
Ro, thanks for participating in the conversation.
Please read my comments to the end There is plenty of evidence out there that is way more scientific and concludes that is better for our health NOT to wear masks
This post shows me that you are more concerned about political correctness than what is the most healthy for each of us
Stay home if you are sick or immune compromised !! Don’t ask everyone else to wear a mask thinking that will protect you from sickness
I have a child diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis I understand risk
We wear mask and believe me she catches every virus out there
Maybe the only good to come out of this mess will be people staying home if they are sick!!!!
Welcome to my world
We each are given different challenges
Please remove me from your email list
Gina, thanks for your comment and for being thoughtful enough to share a different opionion!
LE Smith says
Yes. Most masks work somewhat if worn correctly. It is to be in conjunction with distancing. Do not lower it to speak and do not touch or play with it throughout the time it is worn.
A sneeze is never expected. Hand washing isn’t always available. Even if you are healthy, there may be “at risk” people of all ages nearby that you could jeopardize their health. Covid does kill. Check the death rates. It’s more than a courtesy.
Thanks LE. Yes, COVID does kill, we’ve lost two loved ones to this terrible disease thus far:
From the study linked: (2) significant impact when universal masking is adopted early, by Day 50 of a regional outbreak, versus minimal impact when universal masking is adopted late.
MINIMAL IMPACT WHEN ADOPTED LATE. The 50 day period may vary by region, but it’s now believed that the virus was here as early as December, January for sure. The time to mask was early on, when the CDC was telling us NOT TO MASK.
At this point it makes very little difference, and there is mounting evidence that wearing a mask is more harmful.
Joy, thanks for your comment. I’ve been thinking about this much of the weekend. Wondering how this figures in with medical workers and if it is harmful for them to wear masks while they’re working 80 hours per week.
From the study I’ll link below: “We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection. … Focusing on universal masking alone may, paradoxically, lead to more transmission of Covid-19 if it diverts attention from implementing more fundamental infection-control measures.”
As far as healthcare workers go, the articles mentions that masks alone are not sufficient: “A mask will not protect providers caring for a patient with active Covid-19 if it’s not accompanied by meticulous hand hygiene, eye protection, gloves, and a gown.”
Doesn’t address the health issues for healthcare workers from wearing masks 80 hours a week, but if they’re working with patients, they may have no choice. I know there are a lot of issues with headaches from wearing the masks.
Jamie L says
I think it would be a good idea to look into this idea some more. :) There are legitimate health reasons why many (including POTUS) have declined to wear a mask.
“Moisture retention, reuse of cloth masks and poor filtration may result in increased risk of infection. Further research is needed to inform the widespread use of cloth masks globally. However, as a precautionary measure, cloth masks should not be recommended for HCWs, particularly in high-risk situations, and guidelines need to be updated.”
“The rates of all infection outcomes were highest in the cloth mask arm, with the rate of ILI (influenza like illness) statistically significantly higher in the cloth mask arm.”
“Neither surgical nor cotton masks effectively filtered SARS–CoV-2 during coughs by infected patients.”
What officials say and what the research actually shows don’t always line up.
Jamie, agree about POTUS he does not need to wear a mask because as he’s said he and everyone around him are tested for COVID-19 every day. If my family and I could get tested we would do the same :-)
Lynda Hosty says
Thanks for being a voice of reason on this topic. Due to the great impact of SARS in many countries in Asia, they were quick to wear masks and lowered the spread of COVId-19. I hope people seriously take your example and theirs in Canada and USA.
Thanks Lynda, it’s amazing what countries like Japan have done wearing masks.
Laura Sklenicka says
Please keep to recipes, Elana. Your obvious political slant is a huge turnoff as is your one-sided research.
Torie, thanks so much for your comment! I appreciate you sharing your opinion here.