Let’s face it. None of us likes wearing a mask. Either they are too tight, too loose or too hot, and always, they are uncomfortable. After speaking with a brilliant CEO-friend of mine from California who refuses to wear one unless he is somewhere that requires it, I was motivated to look into the value of wearing of mask. What I suspected was correct and those well-researched facts appear below. This Herman Trend Alert is another in our COVID-19 series aimed at giving you hope and help. In study after study, wearing masks reduces individual and community rates of disease. In this Herman Trend Alert, I will detail some of those studies.
Why wear a mask?
Masks serve as barriers. They keep us from infecting others and others from infecting us. When we cough, or sneeze or even just talk, we launch droplets into the air. The tiny versions (aerosol) can hang in the air for hours, possibly causing infection, especially – but not exclusively – in enclosed and poorly ventilated spaces.
Do masks really make a difference?
The short answer is, “Yes.” A recent animal study from Hong Kong University showed significant results of masking. When no hamster cages were masked, the infection rate from diseased hamsters to non-diseased hamsters was 67 percent. When only the uninfected cage was masked, the infection rate dropped to 33 percent; and when both cages were masked, the infection rate was a mere 17 percent. However, the best part was that the animals that did get infected had lowers levels of virus than the animals with no masking. Moreover, Australian data scientist Jeremy Howard identified 34 papers showing their effectiveness (Masks4All.com).
Also recently, a computer simulation built by a team of scientists and academics from Europe and California demonstrated that if 80 percent of the population wore masks, infection rates would plummet by more than 90 percent. And the proof is in the remarkably low death rates in the mask-wearing countries of Hong Kong and Taiwan. Wearing masks flattens curves and protects people.
Do masks do a perfect job?
No. However, given the choice, I will side with science every time. Science is telling us that wearing masks works to reduce the chance of infection. If that is the case, it seems only logical to wear a mask when you are in a closed space. When the initial exposure is great, the virus can overwhelm the immune system and cause serious illness. Wearing masks reduces the likelihood of becoming infected to a mild case or none at all. Funded by the World Health Organization, a meta-study that analyzed 64 scientific papers found that masks dropped the risk of infection for wearers by between 50 and 80 percent.
How did masks become political?
Due to the fact that the President of the United States decided that a mask would make him look “weak,” many of his supporters have decided to follow that lead. Though we all hoped that this viral infection was minimal, hope is not a strategy. Sadly, wearing a mask has become politicized and some have decided that mask-wearing is a violation of their personal rights.
Does it matter what kind of mask I wear?
Unless you are a healthcare professional or immune compromised, the answer is, “Mostly, no.” There is a more expensive and more sophisticated type of mask called an N95. Offering the highest protection – other than a hazmat suit – these multi-layer masks should be reserved for medical professionals. Early in the course of the infection the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was concerned that ordinary citizens would take needed masks away from healthcare professionals. With the wider availability of PPE, the advice is now that we should all wear masks to protect ourselves and others.
Why many non-urban-dwelling US citizens do not wear masks
While in many urban areas around the world people take public transportation, here in the United States, we continue to have a love affair with our cars. Why does that matter? Because when we are in enclosed spaces with others, e.g., a subway car or a bus, we need to wear masks – to protect ourselves and others. When we are alone in our cars, there is no reason to suffer that discomfort.
The future of mask-wearing
Not long ago, the governor of New York commented that his masked first responders had lower percentages of infection than his citizens-at-large. When more people come to the same conclusion and realize that they are protecting themselves and others, more people will wear masks. For the sake of the US population, I hope that comes sooner rather than later. In the meantime, with cases of infection rising in 21 states, I am avoiding stores that do not require masks. I have presented the facts, so that you may make your own decision.
And one more thing. . .
This COVID-19 virus is what we call a “novel virus;” that means no one really knows about the long-term effects on humans – whether there is permanent damage to the lungs or other areas of the body. I urge you to protect yourself and others.
Special thanks to The Week Magazine for its valuable coverage of this topic.
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