Why Face Masks are Essential as We Go Back to Work

New Research Shows How COVID-19 is Transmitted and How Masks Can Stop the Spread

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
May 12, 2020

As farms, food vendors, and other businesses begin to reopen, three new scientific studies show why face masks are an important way to bring the COVID-19 coronavirus under control.

woman in a face mask
COVID-19 has spread so widely because infected people often don’t show symptoms during the first 4–5 days, but still shed virus by breathing, talking or coughing to anyone nearby.

How Coronavirus Spreads

Pie Chart showing How Coronavirus Spreads.In a new study in Science, researchers from Oxford, UK showed that COVID-19 virus had a reproduction rate of about 2.0. This means an infected person infects two other people, and they in turn each infect two more people. The infection spreads rapidly throughout the population. As the virus doubles, it is transmitted three main ways. The researchers established approximately how much each viral transmission route contributed to the infection rate:

1 ) Infected people with no symptoms – 50% of all transmissions
2 ) Infected people with symptoms – 40% of all transmissions
3) Contaminated external surfaces (e.g. door knobs, etc.) – 10% of all transmissions

Surprisingly, the study showed, more infections come from pre-symptomatic people than those people showing symptoms.

How Face Masks Can Prevent Coronavirus Spread

Bar Graph Showing How Much Coronavirus an Infected Person Sheds.The second study, in the journal Nature Medicine, researched whether wearing face masks could prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Coronavirus is transmitted by respiratory droplets and aerosols in the breath of an infected person. Researchers organized a trial of 246 people to find out if surgical masks could interrupt the spread of respiratory virus. Half the people in the experiments had pre-existing viral respiratory infections, including mild corona family virus (not COVID-19).

Researchers first sampled study participants by taking nasal and throat swabs, then by having them breathe into an apparatus, which detected and identified any respiratory viruses as they exhaled. The researchers monitored them with and without face masks, with these results:

Without a Face Mask – Breathing Test Results
• Coronavirus detected in 30% of the exhaled respiratory droplets
• Coronavirus detected in 40% of the exhaled respiratory aerosols

With a Face Mask – Breathing Test Results
• Coronavirus not detected in exhaled respiratory droplets
• Coronavirus not detected in exhaled respiratory aerosols

The important discovery is that surgical masks effectively blocked coronavirus transmission. There were virtually no coronavirus particles detected from droplets or aerosols when the subjects wore face masks!

Effective Homemade Face Masks

What if you don’t have or can’t get a surgical face mask or an N95 mask? A lot of people have turned to homemade DIY masks. Are they effective? The answer is yes!

Here are two face masks you can make from simple materials at home:

Making Coronavirus Face Masks? Here’s What you Need to Know

How to Make a CDC-Approved Cloth Face Mask

Why Face Masks are Important as the Economy Reopens

As we go forward in this pandemic and start back to work, face masks are the most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

If a majority of people wear masks, the reproductive rate of the coronavirus for the community will drop below 1.0. This will reduce the number of new infections to the point where expanded testing can locate and isolate them.

Additional recent research shows that if face masks come into widespread (80%) use in a country, the pandemic can be quickly controlled and the cost in human lives and economic damage limited.

Video: Visual Simulations Show Why We All Need to Wear Masks Now
by De Kai, et al.


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