With the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States exploding, local officials are increasingly mandating the wearing of face coverings. The current pandemic is one of the biggest public health concerns that has impacted the globe in the past 100 years, and it’s important that governments and individuals do their part to slow down the spread of the virus. From its origins in China, there are few nations that have been spared the wrath of the novel coronavirus. As this is a new disease, humans have not yet built up any natural immunity as protection from the virus. It spreads quite easily, and there is strong evidence that asymptomatic people can spread it. Additionally, it’s believed that those who will eventually exhibit symptoms can infect others before they start to show symptoms of COVID-19.
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While there are some nations that have a higher per capita infection rate with the novel coronavirus, no nation has as many cases or deaths from the illness as the United States. The US was largely able to flatten the infection curve after international gateways like New York and Detroit that were early hot spots got the spread of the virus under control. Then states started to open up without taking the proper precautions, and daily case rates have increased to more than 60,000.
Other nations like Russia and Brazil that seemed to do relatively well early in the pandemic have seen cases skyrocket in recent weeks. In some of the worst-hit areas, leadership failed to fully appreciate the danger that the new illness posed. One leader who seemed to take the seriousness of COVID-19 lightly was Boris Johnson of the UK. After doing little to avoid meetings with people in the winter and early spring, Johnson came down with a serious case of the new disease and wound up in an ICU unit needing supplemental oxygen. While Johnson recovered, it’s estimated that more than 600,000 have died from the outbreak.
In some of the nations that have had major outbreaks, citizens have been reluctant to wear masks. Until July, President Donald Trump refused to wear a mask in public in spite of his administration’s recommendation that American citizens wear them. Many wonder how effective face masks actually are in the fight against COVID.
The Relative Value Of Masks
Many people wonder how much a mask can do to keep their friends and family members safe. The effectiveness of face coverings in cutting down the spread of COVID-19 is tied to the way the disease spreads. It’s a virus, which has no way to crawl into someone’s nose or mouth. It is an airborne disease, but to become airborne it has to come from an infected host. Otherwise, the virus particles become inactive and unable to spread infection. Sick people spread the virus through water droplets that they expel. Usually, this happens when they cough or sneeze, but talking or breathing can also project some virus outward from a human host. Most of the droplets carrying the virus are too big to travel through a face covering, and the mask serves to slow down any droplets that might escape.
Wearing a mask does little to help the sick person. Its main intent is to keep the active virus particles from infecting another. Even though a mask will not catch all of the virus particles, it will stop most. When a person in contact with a sick person wears a cloth or surgical mask, it will do less to protect them if the sick person does not wear a mask. There is anecdotal evidence that wearing a cloth or surgical mask can prevent the spread of COVID and other respiratory diseases. A hair salon in Missouri recently had two stylists who were sick with COVID come into contact with around 140 customers. Masks were required, and none of the customers came down with a positive test. Additionally, a man with a cough on a flight between China and Canada who received a COVID diagnosis later infected no one around him. He wore a mask. There is also evidence that nations that have a higher prevalence of mask wearing have done a better job at keeping infections down while also experiencing lower death rates overall.
The wearing of masks is a controversial topic in the current political environment. However, the evidence is relatively strong that wearing masks during a respiratory pandemic is an effective public health measure. They largely keep the COVID-19 virus from getting from an infected person to a healthy person. With lower transmission rates, people could cease wearing any facial coverings sooner
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