Should Everyone be Wearing Masks?
Updated: Jul 19, 2020
Navigating conflicting information and changing guidelines can be tricky, here’s what you need to know.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States, government officials and scientists haven’t agreed on what steps are necessary to curb the infection rate. Frequent hand-washing and social distancing have been lauded for their effectiveness by organizations like the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. Earlier recommendations from these organizations stated that the general public didn't need to wear masks. However, as of April 3rd, the CDC reversed their advice and is now urging everyone, including healthy people, to wear some sort of face-covering while in public. Respiratory viruses, like the coronavirus, spread via droplets- and smaller droplets called aerosols- in the air every time an infected person breathes, sneezes, coughs or speaks. These droplets can then land on a surface or be inhaled through the mouth or nose by a non-infected person. One study recently published in Nature Medicine concluded that masks significantly interfere with the transmission of viral droplets and can help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses. Masks work as a physical barrier, the multiple layers of fabric trap tiny viral particles and prevent them from being inhaled by the wearer. They also prevent these particles from being released into the air and dropped on nearby surfaces when worn by an infected person.
Officials also believe that the virus can be spread by infected people who appear healthy, or are asymptomatic- part of the reason why coronavirus spreads so covertly. This means there’s no way of knowing if the people you come into close contact with- at the grocery store, bank, or pharmacy, for example- have the virus. You could unknowingly catch the virus or spread it to others. This underscores the importance of maintaining good hygiene, distance from others, and donning of face-masks. It's also important to note that while each strategy is important, they can only be effective when combined. So continue to wash your hands, maintain your distance from others, and put a mask on when you leave the house.
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