15 Apr To wear or not to wear a MASK?
Initially, the CDC and The World Health Organization advised the general public against wearing face masks. This recommendation was based on the overwhelming shortage of face masks for those who desperately need them.
However, on April 3, 2020, the CDC changed their tune. The CDC released a statement recommending everyone visiting public or crowded locations, such as grocery stores or pharmacies, should wear a cloth mask covering their mouth and nose. This recommendation follows the list of cities and countries that have already implemented recommendations and mandates for citizens to wear face masks.
Masks reduce the spread of infectious disease by catching microbes expelled by the wearer and protecting the wearer from microbes in their environment. When we cough, sneeze, talk, or simply breathe we emit a plume of air and droplets, which are largely composed of saliva, mucus, salts, and—if we are infected—potentially dangerous microbes. The smallest of these droplets, sometimes called aerosols, may hover or drift through the air for hours, potentially exposing anyone who enters that airspace. Larger droplets may travel only a few feet—or up to 26 feet if propelled by a sneeze—before falling to the ground or onto another surface, such as someone’s skin or clothes.
The collective evidence makes a strong case for universal mask-wearing during a pandemic. Masks are not a substitute for other interventions; they must always be used in combination with social distancing and hand hygiene. But even during a lockdown, some people need to leave their homes for the essential task, such as buying food and medicine. With diseases like Covid-19, many individuals may be infected but asymptomatic, spreading the virus without realizing it. In parallel, some healthy people may not be able to adequately isolate themselves from infected partners, family members, and housemates. Masks could help reduce the spread of disease in all these scenarios.
Masks work in both directions. If everybody wears a mask, it’s double protection.
Even if a mask is not 100 percent sealed, it is still a significant reduction in risk of transmission.