By: Andrew Koh
The CDC and WHO guidance and recommendation on wearing protective masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19 has triggered a polarizing debate depending on where one fits in the political spectrum. While some agree and support the medical organizations’ guidelines of wearing PPE and masks to protect themselves and the people around them in public spaces, others detest the idea and feel the masks infringes upon their rights and civil liberties. Regardless of how one feels about the masks, there is a moral and societal responsibility we must consider as we continue to face a global pandemic that has affected the lives of “over 8.2 million people with confirmed Covid-19 cases and over 220,000 deaths in the U.S. as well as over 40.3 million cases and 1.1 million deaths worldwide” (The New York Times, 2020). The following highlights the evidence behind wearing PPE and face masks to help prevent the transmission of Covid-19.
According to an experiment conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine, “aerosols and droplets generated during speech have been implicated in the person-to-person transmission of viruses” (2020). “By using high-speed video, they found that hundreds of droplets ranging from 20 to 500 micrometers were generated when saying a simple phrase, but that nearly all these droplets were blocked when the mouth was covered by a damp washcloth” (Bai, 2020).
Additionally, “a recent study published on Health Affairs, compared the COVID-19 growth rate before and after mask mandates in 15 states and the District of Columbia. It found that mask mandates led to a slowdown in daily COVID-19 growth rate, which became more apparent over time. The first five days after a mandate, the daily growth rate slowed by 0.9 percentage-points compared to the five days prior to the mandate; at three weeks, the daily growth rate had slowed by 2 percentage-points.” (Bai, 2020). According the study conducted by Wei Lyu and George L. Wehby from the Department of Health Management and Policy, College of Public Health at the University of Iowa, “estimates suggest that as a result of the implementation of these mandates, more than 200,000 COVID-19 cases were averted and the findings suggest that requiring face mask use in public could help in mitigating the spread of COVID-19” (2020).
“A preprint study also found that weekly increases in per-capita mortality were four times lower in places where masks were the norm or recommended by the government, compared with other regions. Researchers looked at 200 countries, including Mongolia, which adopted mask use in January and, as of May, had recorded no deaths related to COVID-19” (Peeples, 2020).
Within a real world example, following reports of two symptomatic hair dressers in Missouri being in close contact with 139 clients in which all parties wore protective face masks, a study was conducted to find that “no symptomatic secondary cases were reported and among 67 clients who tested for Covid-19, all test results were negative” (Hendrix et al., 2020).
All of which further supports the CDC and WHO guidelines and scientific evidence advocating the public to wear protective face masks to stop the community spread and transmission of Covid-19.
Bai, N. (2020, October 16). Still Confused About Masks? Here’s the Science Behind How Face Masks Prevent Coronavirus. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2020/06/417906/still-confused-about-masks-heres-science-behind-how-face-masks-prevent
Hendrix, M., MD, Walde, C., MD, Findley, K., MD, & Trotman, R., DO. (2020, July 16). Absence of Apparent Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from Two Stylists After Exposure at a Hair Salon with a Universal Face Covering Policy – Springfield, Missouri, May 2020. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6928e2.htm
Lyu, W., Wehby, G. L., NW, F., K, M., ES, R., Al., E., . . . LH, S. (2020, June 16). Community Use Of Face Masks And COVID-19: Evidence From A Natural Experiment Of State Mandates In The US. Retrieved October 21, 2020, from https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/10.1377/hlthaff.2020.00818
New England Journal of Medicine. (2020, October 08). Visualizing Speech-Generated Oral Fluid Droplets with Laser Light Scattering: NEJM. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2007800
The New York Times. (2020, January 28). Covid World Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak. Retrieved October 19, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/world/coronavirus-maps.html
Peeples, L. (2020, October 06). Face masks: What the data say. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02801-8