The truth about face masks and the coronavirus

Wearing masks in crowded places may help reduce the spread, but it isn’t a perfect solution.

Scientific studies about the effectiveness of masks remain inconclusive. Some have found that they might help a bit in preventing illnesses from spreading, but others suggest they’re not worth putting on.

Because the novel coronavirus appears to be easily spread by asymptomatic people, it’s possible that masks might help prevent people who don’t yet know they’re infected from spreading it to others.

Some epidemiologists recommend wearing a mask or other face covering if you need to be in crowded spaces, like when you’re going to the supermarket or using public transportation.

“It’s like a civic duty,” said Elaine Shuo Feng, an Oxford epidemiologist and statistician, adding, “People wear the mask to protect themselves and also protect others.”

When reports emerged that a strange new illness was spreading in Wuhan, China, Elaine Shuo Feng, an epidemiologist and statistician, was in her hometown of Tianjin, more than 730 miles from the disease’s epicenter.

There, everyone sprang into action, she said, hearing the news about a novel coronavirus emerging, one that had never before infected humans.

“Everyone was wearing the face masks at that time,” Feng told Business Insider.

But when Feng, a postdoctoral researcher at Oxford, returned to the UK, where the illness was just starting to take hold, the same wasn’t true.

“When the outbreak started here, I found no one — or rarely someone — wearing a face mask,” she said. “Sometimes when Asian people wear a face mask [here] they have some problems, like being criticized or stigmatized.”

Global confusion and disagreement about when, where, how, and who should wear face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic has become a heated question in recent weeks as the outbreak has multiplied at staggering rates across the US and Europe while transmission has slowed across Asia.

People are now turning their bras into homemade masks, just as costume makers are repurposing their sewing machines into mask-manufacturing devices. The US Food and Drug Administration has described the supply chain for paper surgical masks as “stressed.”

The truth is that while masks are by no means a perfect tool for preventing the spread of an illness, in a world without a vaccine or any clinically proven treatment for COVID-19, they may be one more ounce of prevention that can help slow the spread across a community, especially when people who don’t yet know they’re infected wear them to protect others.

Source: Business Insider



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