We knew masks protect others. Now we discover masks protect you too!
For months, experts declared covering our face reduces the risk of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to others. We repeated the phrase, “My mask protects you. Your mask protects me.” Now, there is even better news.
This study, published in The Lancet, validated the value of social distancing and demonstrated that face coverings are NOT just about helping others.
Wearing a facemask protects the wearer as well.
Our planet has been exposed to a novel virus, and no human has baseline immunity to COVID-19. Covid-19 is spread through person-to-person contact via respiratory particles. Sneezing and coughing spread large droplets. Smaller particles are expelled when we speak, clear our throat, and breathe. Droplets leave our mouths and then enter the mouth, nose, or eyes of others.
We have five weapons to dramatically reduce the spread of COVID-19. The CDC highlights physical distancing, hand hygiene, avoiding crowds, and staying home when sick as mitigation tools. Face coverings are an additional intervention to prevent the spread.
The Lancet study demonstrates a standard, rectangular medical mask prevents transmitting the virus to others and protects the person who’s wearing it. N95 masks worked even better but continue to be in short supply, thus reserved for front line workers.
This paper also validated the need for protective eyewear use among medical professionals and those who work with people in close proximity to others.
A July study published in Jama also supported the benefit of hospital universal masking policies. Healthcare workers wearing a mask had a reduced risk of contracting the virus while also protecting others.
Mass mask confusion clarified
In the initial phase of the pandemic, public health experts released guidance indicating only the sick should wear a mask. As scientists learned more about coronavirus, the guidance changed. Medical personal were instructed to wear a mask, and others were encouraged to use a cloth, reusable face cover.
Every day scientists learn more about SARS-CoV-2. But from a medical research perspective, we were starting from ground zero. The mask messaging evolution represents the strength of the scientific method.
In science, the more we learn, the better the guidance.
Until a vaccine or an effective treatment is available, the safest course of action is for every American to live as though we are all asymptomatic carriers.
Some people are carriers of SARS-Cov-2 and may spread the virus before they develop symptoms. These silent spreaders pass the infection to another person without ever developing symptoms at all.
Masks prevent the virus from hopping on board a respiratory particle and passing indiscriminately from one person to another. The virus’s spike proteins attach to cell surface ACE2 receptors, hijack the cell, and reproduce thousands of copies of itself.
This important study adds to the growing body of evidence supporting the use of face coverings to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
A face mask is an additional weapon to protect others and yourself.
Blog Author: Dr. Jeff Livingston
Main Blog Photo By: vlada_maestro Istock by Getty