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Wearing a face mask reduces your coronavirus infection risk by 65%

Published Jul 9th, 2020 6:05PM EDT
Coronavirus Tips
Image: Andre Pichette/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

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  • Coronavirus tips: Wearing a face mask is one of the best ways to avoid being infected. The protective equipment can reduce the risk of transmission for both wearers and the people in their vicinity.
  • Face masks can reduce the risk of infection by 65% for the wearer, which should be a significant incentive for putting a face mask on whenever you’re going out of the house.
  • Combined with social distancing and frequent handwashing, face masks can help you navigate the COVID-19 pandemic more safely.

The spread of the novel coronavirus spread has increased since states started reopening because not enough people are respecting the few simple recommendations that can reduce transmission risk. Hygiene, social distancing, and face masks won’t eliminate the risk, but they can reduce it significantly.

After weeks or months in lockdown, some people aren’t that eager to keep their distance from others, especially now that restaurants and bars have reopened. Others defy mask protocols, finding incredible reasons to avoid them, and failing to see the benefits such a simple protective device has to offer. Face masks can block virus-laden particles of saliva from spreading in the air and infecting other people. The protection is bi-directional, as the same particles can be blocked from reaching the wearer’s mouth and nose. New data indicates that face masks cut the risk of infection for the wearer by 65%, which is quite significant.

“We’ve learned more due to research and additional scientific evidence, and now we know [that] not only wearing a mask prevents the person wearing the mask to transmit to others, but wearing the mask protects the person who’s wearing it,” UC Davis Children’s Hospital chief of pediatric infectious diseases Dean Blumberg told Fox News. “So the wearer of the mask, even the standard rectangular surgical masks … will decrease the risk of infection by the person wearing the mask by about 65%.”

The N95 masks that medical professionals wear offer even more protection, further reducing the risk of transmission, the doctor said. But these are in short supply, and they’re needed by healthcare professionals.

“Everyone should wear a mask,” Blumberg said on UC Davis Live: Coronavirus Edition. “People who say, ‘I don’t believe masks work,’ are ignoring scientific evidence. It’s not a belief system. It’s like saying, ‘I don’t believe in gravity.'”

“We don’t know who might spread it,” Blumberg said. “We do know social distancing reduces the risk of transmitting the virus by 90% and wearing masks decreases the risk by 65%.” Blumberg and chemical professor of engineering at UC Davis William Ristenpart explained droplets and aerosols and their role in COVID-19 transmission.

Droplets are visible particles that are one-third the size of a human hair. Masks are effective at blocking them, the scientists said. The aerosol particles are much smaller, at 1/100th the size of human hair, and they can linger longer in the air. These particles can find their way through the various materials used for masks, especially homemade ones. Social distancing and proper ventilation can help circulate the air and the aerosols in it.

“Studies in laboratory conditions now show the virus stays alive in aerosol form with a half-life on the scale of hours. It persists in the air,” Ristenpart added. “That’s why you want to be outdoors for any social situations, if possible. The good airflow will disperse the virus. If you are indoors, think about opening the windows. You want as much fresh air as possible.” He added that bars and other indoor locations are dangerous for people, favoring transmission. “The louder you speak, the more expiratory aerosols you put out.”

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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