Health experts have emphasized the importance of wearing a mask to limit the possibility of infecting others with COVID-19, but a number of new research now suggest that they also protect the wearer, according to a report on Monday.
With many states implementing policies to make facial coatings mandatory in both indoor and outdoor spaces, a doctor says masks also reduce the risk of infection for the wearer by 65 percent.
“We have learned more because of research and additional scientific evidence and now we know [that] not only wearing a mask prevents the person wearing the mask from transferring to others, but having the mask protects the person wearing it, says Dean Blumberg, director of infectious disease in children at UC Davis Children̵
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“So the wearer of the mask, even the usual rectangular surgical masks … will reduce the risk of infection of the wearer by about 65 percent.”
He added that N95 masks do an even better job of protecting people from the virus, but they are deficient and needed by healthcare professionals.
Blumberg and William Ristenpart, professor of chemical engineering at UC Davis, showed up at UC Davis Live: Coronavirus Edition to discuss the transmission topic. Ristenpart’s lab at UC Davis has studied how people release small droplets while breathing or talking that can carry the virus.
The pair highlighted two primary transfer methods. The first is visible drops that a wearer exhibits, which is about a third of the size of a human hair. They said that masks create an effective barrier to these types of drops.
“Everyone should have a mask,” Blumberg said. “People who say ‘I don’t think masks work’ ignore scientific evidence. It is not a belief system. It’s like saying, “I don’t believe in seriousness.”
The other is via the aerosol particles that we release when we talk. They are about 1/100 the size of a human hair and are harder to defend against. He said it was because the smaller particles could still sneak through a gap in rectangular or homemade fabric masks.
Social distancing and staying outdoors are helpful in staying away from the small particles because there is more airflow, Blumberg and Ristenpart said.
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“Studies in laboratory conditions now show that the virus stays alive in aerosol form with a half-life on the scale of hours. It stays in the air, “added Ristenpart. “That’s why you want to be outdoors in all social situations if possible. The good airflow spreads the virus. Be sure to open the windows if you are indoors. You want as much fresh air as possible.”
He said there are therefore bounded areas where bars – seen as hotspots for the virus – are particularly dangerous: “The higher you speak, the more expiratory aerosols you release.”
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“So we don’t know who can spread it,” Blumberg said. “We know that social distancing reduces the risk of transmitting the virus by 90 percent and wearing masks reduces the risk by 65 percent.”