Will wearing a mask stop us from contracting the coronavirus? Maybe not. But will it decrease the chances of you contracting the virus? Yes. Quite significantly. Face masks, along with frequent hand-washing and social distancing, will protect you from acquiring the coronavirus.
At the start of the pandemic, using masks was not recommended. However, that was only because, at that time, the experts didn’t realize the extent to which the coronavirus could spread without the symptoms manifesting quickly. Nor was it known that some asymptomatic people could actively transmit the virus. After these discoveries, public health groups decided to use masks to slow down the virus’s spread. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began to increasingly recommend using face masks to slow the spread of the virus.
There are multiple strands of evidence supporting the efficacy of masks.
- A recent study conducted in a lab’s controlled environment showed that masks could stop respiratory droplets from escaping in the air. An experiment using high-speed video found that hundreds of droplets, ranging from 20 to 500 micrometers, are generated when we say the simplest phrase aloud. However, when people started using masks, the amount of escaping respiratory droplets reduced to almost zero.
- Another study, conducted with a sample of several people with a common cold, found that wearing a surgical mask significantly reduced the number of respiratory viruses emitted in droplets.
- A recent study published by the Health Affairs compared the COVID growth rate before and after the Mask Mandate in 15 states and the district of Columbia. It concluded that after the Mask Mandate, the growth rate slowed down by 0.9 percentage points compared to the five days before the mandate. At three weeks, the daily growth rate slowed down by 2 percentage points.
- In June, another study looked at the deaths caused by coronavirus across 198 countries and found that those with cultural norms or government policies favoring mask-wearing had a lower death rate.
In conclusion, a mask may not protect us completely from the virus, but it will most definitely significantly reduce our chances of contracting and transmitting it.