The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped life as we all know it. Many of us are staying residence, avoiding people on the street and altering day by day habits, like going to school or work, in methods we never imagined.
While we’re changing old behaviours, there are new routines we have to adopt. Initially is the habit of wearing a masks or face covering each time we are in a public space.
Based on our prior work in outbreaks of infectious diseases, we all know that clear, consistent messages about what individuals can do to protect themselves and their community are critical. By that measure, the messaging on masks has been confusing.
Early within the pandemic, most people was told not to wear masks. This was pushed by the longstanding recognition that normal surgical masks (additionally called medical masks) are inadequate to protect the wearer from many respiratory pathogens, as well as the concern about diverting limited supplies from healthcare settings.
Science is the pursuit of data and understanding, and it inevitably changes the way we see the world. Because of the tireless efforts of scientists all over the place, now we have compressed years of research on the COVID-19 virus into months. This has led to a rapid evolution of insurance policies and proposals, and not surprisingly some skepticism in regards to the advice of experts.
These are a few of the things we’ve learned:
Masks and face coverings can stop the wearer from transmitting the COVID-19 virus to others and may provide some protection to the wearer. A number of studies have shown that face coverings can comprise droplets expelled from the wearer, which are responsible 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 forty% of persons with COVID-19 are asymptomatic however probably able to transmit the virus to others. In the absence widespread screening tests, we’ve no way of identifying many people who are silently transmitting the virus of their community.
Universal mask use can significantly reduce virus transmission in the community by stopping anybody, 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 different measures, could lead to substantial reductions in case numbers and deaths.
Masks are usually not excellent boundaries to transmission, however they don’t need to be perfect if they aren’t used alone. Common mask use ought to be accompanied by different public health measures corresponding to physical distancing, testing, contact tracing and restrictions on giant gatherings. Those measures aren’t perfect both, but when many imperfect measures are mixed at a group stage, they are often very efficient at slowing transmission and reducing infections.
Masks also can reduce the inequitable impact of the pandemic, particularly for many who live in crowded environments the place physical distancing is tough, and for many who work in frontline roles the place there’s a higher risk of publicity to the virus.
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