As we’ve reached a point in the quarantine phase where many are feeling fatigued with the stress of certain restrictions and recommendations, we wanted to address a relatively simple aspect of our current lives that has generated quite a bit of attention recently. Masks.
Polls show that the majority of Americans wear masks or face coverings in public in order to prevent the spread COVID-19; however, a vocal group of people have passionately turned masking into a divisive issue. Many of those who refuse to wear a mask have made many claims; among them:
- It infringes on their freedom
- They have medical issues that prevent them from wearing one
- It makes them look weak
- Find masks uncomfortable
- Are dubious by its efficacy to mitigate COVID-19
- It makes you more sick by trapping bacteria or carbon dioxide
- Believe it is a part of a grand conspiracy against a particular political party
For the majority of Americans who have not had to wear masks on a regular basis, it can be an uncomfortable feeling at first as it shifts around the face, traps heat, fogs up glasses, and can make breathing a little more difficult. However, like most new activities, it takes a little bit of patience and practice to adapt. And it’s worth it–masks are scientifically and medically proven to mitigate COVID-19 spread and are increasingly critical as we continue to see surges in positive cases.
Masks do three important things:
- Reduce the total mass and volume of droplets put into the environment
- Reduce the distance that droplets travel
- Reduce the total droplet mass due to filtration and droplet evaporation
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) conducted a study on the efficacy of cloth masks in blocking droplet particles using a high-speed camera. NIST tested 26 types of cloth masks and had some significant, albeit unsurprising, conclusions:
- The simplest face coverings such as a bandana or thin cotton fabric, stopped much of a cough from landing on another person
- Not covering the nose removes the majority of protective features of wearing a face covering
- There is significant reducing in airflow velocity while talking with all face coverings
The last point is particularly important because COVID-19 positive people can be asymptomatic yet transmit the virus to other people through infectious droplets and most people in public are talking more than coughing.
Another independent study found that droplets from a cough travel, on average, 8 feet and all types of face coverings reduced that distance. Bandanas reduced the average jet distance to 3 feet 7 inches, a folded handkerchief reduced it to 1 foot 3 inches, a stitched mask reduced it to 2.5 inches, and a drug store commercial mask reduced it to 8 inches.
The efficacy of masking can also be found in real-world scenarios and epidemiologic data. After comparing COVID-19 growth rates before and after masking mandates in 15 states and Washington D.C., a study found that daily growth rate slowed by 0.9% after the first five days and 2% after three weeks. Researchers also estimate that 230,000 to 450,000 COVID-19 cases were prevented in states that implemented mask mandates between April 8 and May 15.
Another study concluded that across 198 countries, those more willing to wear masks or had government mandated masking policies had lower COVID-19 related deaths.
On January 22, 2020 a man who flew from China to Toronto tested positive for COVID-19. He wore a mask on the flight and the all 25 people closest to him tested negative. In another case, two hair stylists in Missouri worked while positive with COVID-19 and had close contact with 140 customers. Everyone wore a mask and none of the customers tested were positive.
Wearing a mask has saved lives and will continue to save lives. The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluations (IHME) suggests that 33,000 deaths can be prevented by October 1 if 95% of Americans wore a face mask in public or in high-risk situations including:
- Inside of, or in line to enter, any indoor public space
- Obtaining services from the healthcare sector
- Waiting for or riding on public transportation or ride-sharing vehicle
- Engaged in work and:
- Interacting with members of the public
- Working in spaces visited by members of the public regardless if they are present at the time
- Working in any space where food is prepared or packaged for distribution
- Working or walking through common areas
- In any room or enclosed area where other people are present when unable to physically distance
- While outdoors in public spaces when maintaining a physical distance of 6 feet from persons who are not members of the same household or residence is not feasible[i]
California has heavily encouraged that everyone continue to wear a mask while out in public. It might not be comfortable, it might feel like a nuisance on occasion, and you might not like how it looks, but take our word for it, deciding to wear a mask means that you are greatly helping in curbing the threat of COVID-19 in our community. Share Our Selves requires our patients and our entire team to wear masks while on our sites for this very reason. We strongly encourage you to continue wearing face coverings when you leave your house as this is a conscious choice to strengthen the health and safety of yourself and others. Stopping the spread requires all of us.
SO HOW CAN YOU HELP?
For starters, please, wear a mask.
Now let’s get others to do the same.
- Take a photo of yourself wearing your mask.
- Post it to social media.
- Tag @ShareOurSelves to let others know where they can learn more.
- Use the hashtag #WeCanRestoreOC
Together, we can spread knowledge and not COVID-19.