The mouth and nose are where the coronavirus usually first enters us, and where it usually spreads from breathing, coughing and sneezing. Masks make sense but do they really help?
Many studies have been done with different conclusions but the overwhelming evidence shows that they help to dramatically reduce transmission. An Australian data scientist, Jeremy Howard, created a website called Masks4All.co. He revealed 34 papers showing their effectiveness and none that did not.
A team of scientists from California and Europe built a computer simulation showing that if 80% of the population wore masks, infection rates would decrease by more than 90%. Countries like Taiwan and Hong Kong proved this with very low infection rates despite high population density.
Masks also protect the wearer according to a World Health Organization study. They decreased the risk of infection between 50 to 80%. N-95 masks, properly fitted were 99% effective, surgical masks 75% and a cloth tea towel 67%. By reducing the initial viral load there is evidence that we may get a milder infection.
Preferred masks have a dense weave such as quilters cotton, flannel or pillowcases with a high thread count. Secondary filters such as coffee filters or vacuum cleaner bag cut outs increase effectiveness but might make breathing more difficult. Masks should fit firmly from below the chin to the bridge of the nose. Remember to cover your nose.
Wash the mask after each use. Wash hands before and after handling your mask, and always handle by the straps.
Yes, these masks are a nuisance and sometimes stuffy and hard to breathe. They don’t look cool and they can give us summer tan lines, but the truth of the matter is they do save lives and quite possibly yours.
Brooke Rieth FNP