Advice about face masks is all over the map…
You may have heard that they do nothing to protect you. They only stop you from spreading coronavirus if you’re infected.
You may have also heard that you shouldn’t wear face masks because there is a shortage of them and medical professionals need them more than you do.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams tweeted this in February: “Seriously people—STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”
A viral internet video says that face masks are harmful because they “activate” the virus.
It turns out that none of these things are true.
As the pandemic continues, there is more and more evidence that face masks help stop the spread of coronavirus. And there is no longer a shortage of masks, if there ever was one.
One of the reasons for the confusion is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
When the pandemic started, the CDC did not recommend face masks.
Then they flip-flopped. They now recommend wearing a face mask in public places.
The problem is that people aren’t getting the message. A recent ABC/Ipsos poll found that 45% of Americans said they do not wear face coverings when leaving their homes.
The U.S. could pay a dear price for this. A recent study in China found that in an area of Hong Kong with 96.6% mask compliance, COVID-19 incidence was far lower than in countries where face mask usage was not universally adopted.
A new lab study illustrates how effective masks can be.
The research comes from the University of Hong Kong. Scientists infected a cageful of hamsters with the coronavirus. They placed a cage containing disease-free hamsters next to it. They had air flowing through the infected hamsters’ cage toward the healthy ones.
They repeated the experiment but with surgical masks placed between the cages.
Without masks, two-thirds of the healthy hamsters were infected within a week. With the masks, the infection rate dropped to just 15%.
And the few in the mask group that did become infected had less of the virus in their bodies compared to the ones who caught the disease without masks.
The study was led by Professor Yuen Kwok-yung. He’s one of the world’s leading coronavirus experts.
“It’s very clear that the effect of masking the infected, especially when they are asymptomatic—or symptomatic—it’s much more important than anything else,” said Professor Yuen.
He said the study explained why universal masking is important, because we now know “that a large number of those infected have no symptoms.”
5 Things You Need to Know About Face Masks
Help protect yourself and those around you. Masks should:
- Fit snugly. Avoid letting masks sag or stick out at the sides.
- Be removed the right way. Be sure not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth when taking off your mask. And wash your hands immediately afterward.
- Have multiple layers of fabric. Just one layer affords much less protection than two or more.
- Not interfere with normal breathing. You don’t need to smother yourself.
- Be washed regularly. Do it after every use, if possible. A washing machine will sufficiently clean and sterilize the mask.
A face mask is your best tool to help keep yourself and others safe in the age of coronavirus. The more people who use them, the sooner the pandemic will be over.
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