The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped life as we all know it. Many of us are staying home, avoiding individuals on the road and changing daily habits, like going to school or work, in ways we never imagined.
While we are changing old behaviours, there are new routines we need to adopt. First and foremost is the habit of wearing a mask or face covering at any time when we are in a public space.
Based mostly on our prior work in outbreaks of infectious illnesses, we know that clear, constant messages about what people can do to protect themselves and their neighborhood are critical. By that measure, the messaging on masks has been confusing.
Early within the pandemic, most people was told to not wear masks. This was driven 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 concern about diverting limited provides from healthcare settings.
Science is the pursuit of data and understanding, and it inevitably modifications the best way we see the world. Thanks to the tireless efforts of scientists everywhere, we have now compressed years of research on the COVID-19 virus into months. This has led to a fast evolution of policies and recommendations, and not surprisingly some skepticism about the advice of experts.
These are among the things we’ve realized:
Masks and face coverings can stop 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 include droplets expelled from the wearer, which are accountable for almost all of transmission of the virus. This 'source control' approach reflects a shift in thinking from a 'medical' perspective (will it protect the wearer?) to a 'public health' perspective (will it assist reduce group transmission and risk for everybody?).
Many individuals with COVID-19 are unaware they are carrying the virus. It's estimated that 40% of persons with COVID-19 are asymptomatic however doubtlessly able to transmit the virus to others. In the absence widespread screening tests, we have 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 neighborhood by stopping 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 limitations to transmission, but they don’t must be excellent in the event that they aren’t used alone. Universal masks use ought to be accompanied by other public health measures akin to physical distancing, testing, contact tracing and restrictions on large gatherings. Those measures aren’t excellent both, but when many imperfect measures are mixed at a community level, they are often very efficient at slowing transmission and reducing infections.
Masks also can reduce the inequitable impact of the pandemic, particularly for individuals who live in crowded environments where physical distancing is tough, and for many who work in frontline roles the place there is a greater risk of publicity to the virus.
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