Are Masks Really Doing Anything For Us?

Are+Masks+Really+Doing+Anything+For+Us%3F

Brianna Whipple

Does wearing a mask lower the spread and decrease the risk of acquiring this deadly virus known as COVID-19? What is the purpose of wearing masks if those around me refuse to? Why should I wear one if my risk of getting the virus is low? Is this what our new normal looks like? These are just a few of the many questions being asked by Americans throughout our entire country. 

As of August 17, as many as 34 states are now required by law to wear a face mask in public to help prevent the spread of the virus, according to aarp.org. The most recent state to join a statewide mask mandate was Mississippi. What happens if you refuse to wear a mask in these states? Possible misdemeanors and fines are being given to those who do not wish to comply. Under the Executive Order, businesses can be shut down if they do not follow the correct sanitary procedures or require their customers to wear masks. They must have signs around the store to remind customers and employees that they are required by law to wear a mask. Businesses also should encourage social distancing by having select spots in line that are six feet apart. These requirements are quickly becoming the “new normal” in our daily lives and in those all throughout the country.

Does wearing a mask really prevent the spread of COVID-19? According to health experts and the CDC, it can. In a real-life research study conducted by healthaffair.org, the COVID-19 growth rate was compared to before and after masks were mandated in fifteen states and the District of Columbia. While it did not completely eliminate the spread of the virus, it slowed down the daily rate over time. During the first three weeks of the mask mandate, the daily growth rate slowed by 2 percentage points, compared to 0.9 percentage points after the first five days. In recent lab studies, an experiment using high speed video was performed by Dr. Philip Anfinrudn and Dr. Adriaan Bax, from the National Institutes of Health, and Christina Bax, from the Perelman School of Medicine. The purpose was to see if respiratory droplets that are dismissed by mouth could be prevented by wearing various masks. This video caught droplets ranging from 20-500 micrometers that were released just by saying a simple sentence. However, nearly all of these droplets were blocked when the mouth was covered by a damp cloth. (www.ucsf.edu/news)

Some people may question if wearing masks protect the people wearing them or the people around them. According to the CDC, it takes 2-14 days after exposure to the virus for symptoms to start showing. In recent epidemiologic and modeling reports, the possibility of people transferring the virus who are pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic are severe. People who are asymptomatic are people who have the infection, but no symptoms are shown, and may never show. People who are presymptomatic means people who do not look or feel sick, but eventually will develop symptoms later. This is the danger of not wearing a mask. You may spread the virus to others, without even knowing you have it. You may have had it in your system and refused to wear a mask when in contact with the public. This means you most likely transferred the disease to a mass of other people. Those people can then spread it to others unknowingly. It is almost like a domino effect.  Infectious disease specialist Peter Chin-Hong states that “masks may be more effective as a “source control” because they can prevent larger expelled droplets from evaporating into smaller droplets that can travel farther.” Therefore, even if you do not have COVID-19, you still benefit from wearing a mask. You are preventing the spread to others and decreasing your risk of acquiring the virus.

Many people who believe they are not at a high risk, question the reasoning behind wearing a mask. This mainly applies to the younger generations who believe that wearing masks are pointless and refuse to wear them. They think that since their risk of catching the virus is low, they do not have to wear a mask in public. However, older generations who are at higher risk do not have as strong of an immune system. Wearing a mask could prevent you from spreading a virus that you may not know you have and that you are likely to fight off easily, to those who may not be able to do the same. Wearing a mask in public may not be for your benefit, but rather for the sake of our elders.

While it’s obvious that wearing a mask will not completely eliminate the possibility of acquiring the virus, it is scientifically proven that it will help decrease the risk. Chin-Hong,  Infectious disease specialist, states “the concept [of wearing masks] is risk reduction rather than absolute prevention… you’re reducing your risk substantially.” By complying to wearing masks, you are saving the lives of those around you by contributing to the prevention of the spread of COVID-19. 

 

 

Accredited Sources 
https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2020/states-mask-mandates-coronavirus.html
https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.17.20069567v2.full.pdf
https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2007800
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html#:~:text=Symptoms%20may%20appear%202%2D,exposure%20to%20the%20virus.
https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2020/06/417906/still-confused-about-masks-heres-science-behind-how-face-masks-prevent