Should You Really Wear a Mask?
July 31, 2020
July 31, 2020
In recent months, news headlines and medical conversations have been based on the need for people to wear masks in public.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on hospitals and medical providers, while also posing a serious threat to people in the high-risk category: aging adults and people with underlying medical conditions.
The challenge with the conversation about wearing a mask is that this topic has been politically charged – making it hard to know truth from opinion. Let’s set the politics aside and look at the facts: the science and data that show why mask-wearing is recommended to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Do Masks Prevent the Spread of Viruses?
The Centers for Disease Control recommends that people in the community wear a covering over their mouth and nose. A cloth face mask, paired with appropriate social distancing and frequent hand washing, can minimize the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Not only does wearing a mask add an extra layer of protection against others who might be carrying the virus, but each person can do their part to minimize the spread of this disease for the good of the public.
One of the biggest concerns about Coronavirus is that asymptomatic people can pass the virus to other high-risk people. Yes, patients with signs of respiratory infections should wear a mask, but it can also be helpful for people in good health to use a mask as well.
Since the COVID-19 is relatively new, researchers are currently studying this disease and how it is spread. They’ve found that COVID-19 is largely an airborne virus, which means that an infected person releases microscopic particles in the air – then other people can become infected by breathing those particles.
This spread of disease also occurs with seasonal flu and other viral infections. So, we can learn how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by following proven strategies that have worked with other viruses.
Here are a few studies that show how masks can help in preventing the spread of viral illnesses:
- This study found that wearing masks reduced the number of air droplets by threefold in people with seasonal flu.
- A laboratory study of respiratory droplets found that hundreds of droplets are generated when a person says a simple phrase, but the majority of these droplets were blocked by putting a damp washcloth over the person’s mouth.
- These researchers discovered that flu rates were decreased when pairing proper hand hygiene with mask-wearing.
- Thousands of Japanese schoolchildren had a lower risk of contracting the seasonal flu through mask-wearing and vaccination.
Most importantly, we need to look at epidemiologic data in our current situation. A recent study found that mask mandates in 15 states resulted in a slowdown in the daily COVID-19 growth rate. A different study analyzed the data across 198 countries and discovered that government policies or cultural norms favoring the wearing of masks resulted in lower death rates.
COVID-19 in Texas: What You Need to Know
If you have been following the news updates, then you are well-informed about the increasing COVID-19 cases in Texas. The numbers change from day to day, but as of this writing, Denton County has reported nearly 5,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with a total of 42 deaths in the area.
The state of Texas is a “hot spot” in the United States right now because of the increasing reports of virus spread. Currently, more than 338,000 cases have been confirmed in the state, with over 4,000 deaths.
These statistics change daily, and the numbers show that community spread is continuing to affect families everywhere. The hospitals are reporting that the beds are filling up, and doctors are worried about the lack of resources to care for more patients that need to be hospitalized.
Common Questions about Wearing a Mask
Even though mask-wearing is a normal part of life in many other parts of the world such as Asia, it’s not as common here in the United States. As the recommendations have been made to wear a mask for personal safety and the good of the public, it makes sense that many people have questions about the effectiveness of this habit.
Here are answers to some of the most common questions you might have:
- Who does a mask protect? Me or other people? The evidence suggests that mask-wearing offers the best benefit for preventing people with COVID-19 from passing the virus to other people. For optimal results, both infected and uninfected people should be wearing a mask – offering two layers of protection to minimize the spread of airborne droplets.
- Should I wear a mask to avoid coronavirus? Choosing to wear a mask in public can reduce the likelihood that you will contract COVID-19 from other people in the area. Mask-wearing is especially important in situations where social distancing (6 feet of distance minimum) is not possible.
- Does everyone need to wear a face mask? Ideally, 100% of the population wearing a mask would reduce the spread of this disease. Recent predictions found that if only 80% of the population wore masks in public, then it would be more effective at reducing COVID-19 spread than a strict lockdown. If 95% of the population wore masks in public, then we could avoid 33,000 deaths between now and October 1.
- Should I wear a mask when I go out? It isn’t practical or necessary for people to wear masks at home. Instead of wearing a mask all the time, the recommendation is that everyone should wear a mask when out in public.
- Do I need to wear a mask or cloth face covering if I have recovered from COVID-19 infection? According to the CDC, the presence of low concentrations of viral RNA after recovery are unknown. It’s unlikely that a person recovered from COVID-19 posts a risk to others. So, the ongoing recommendation is for all people to wear masks.
Does the Type of Mask Matter?
Any mask covering both the nose and mouth will be beneficial compared to wearing no mask at all. While N95 respirators and surgical masks provide the best protection, it is important to focus on what you have available.
The best mask is one that you can wear consistently and comfortably. Many people prefer cloth masks because they are lighter and more comfortable. Additionally, it is recommended to keep medical-grade masks available for healthcare providers working on the front lines.
Protecting Your Family from COVID-19
Mask-wearing is not the only recommendation to minimize the risk of contracting this virus.
The three main health recommendations to protect your family from COVID-19 are:
- Social distancing (a minimum of 6 feet between people)
- Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly
- Wearing a mask
Of these three recommendations, wearing a mask is the most important thing since this virus is an airborne illness.
If you have questions about COVID-19 or you would like to talk to a doctor about the symptoms, Rapid Med Urgent Care is here to help. We offer COVID-19 testing, and also provide On-Demand appointments so you can consult with a medical expert digitally.
If you have signs of COVID-19, then we recommend that you have a digital conversation to minimize the risk of spreading the virus to others in the office. Call for more information.