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Study says you should wear a coronavirus face mask even at home

Published May 30th, 2020 9:01AM EDT
coronavirus mask effectiveness
  • A new study shows that coronavirus masks are super effective when wearing them at home to prevent the spread of disease to family members.
  • The research shows that wearing a mask reduces the chances of transmission by 79%.
  • The study also examined the effectiveness of bleach and other disinfectants in halting the spread of the virus, revealing that regular cleaning reduces the chances of spreading the virus by 77% within a home.

If you’ve been diligent about wearing a mask when out in public to protect yourself and others from the spread of the coronavirus, pat yourself on the back. Public health experts and researchers agree that wearing a mask when you leave the house is one of the best things we can do to slow the pandemic as we wait for a vaccine.

Now, new research says that keeping your mask on at home might be an even better way to curb the spread of the disease. The study was published in BMJ Global Health and it suggests that you can reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others in your own home by a whopping 79% if someone in the household is positive for the disease.

The study’s results are strong, but this shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise. If you’re spending a lot of time inside a home with another person, you tend to swap illnesses back and forth on a regular basis. With the novel coronavirus primarily being transmitted via droplets in the breath, it makes a lot of sense that wearing a mask while at home would prevent the spread of the virus to others in the same enclosed space.

The same team of scientists also studied the effectiveness of regular sanitization of household surfaces. This means using bleach or approved disinfectant to clean things like countertops and doorknobs to prevent passing the disease off to others in the same home. The team found that performing this cleaning on a regular basis reduces the risk of transmission by approximately 77%, which, again, is huge.

“The study confirms the highest risk of transmission prior to symptom onset, and provides the first evidence of effectiveness of mask use, disinfection and social distancing in preventing COVID-19,” the researchers write.

This is good news, overall, but it’s also a bit unreasonable to expect everyone to wear masks at all times, even within the relative comfort of their own homes. If you can pull it off, it’s for the best, but if not, ensuring that any member of your household that begins to feel ill gets tested (and wears a mask at home in the meantime) is clearly a very good idea.

Oh, and keep wearing your masks when you’re in public. Please. I know this whole thing has somehow become politicized, but the data shows how effective it is and it’s up to all of us to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and healthy.