Why resistance to wearing masks is enduring months into coronavirus
Around the country, there still seems to be a certain amount of resistance to wearing masks, even with all we’ve gone through. Why is this the case? Mercer Island MD Dr. Gordon Cohen joined Seattle’s Morning News to discuss.
“Well, I think that’s through no fault of their own. The CDC and the NIH gave conflicting information early on; they said you shouldn’t wear a mask, and then later on they said you should wear a mask. Initially, the CDC and the NIH were concerned about having adequate masks for health care workers. But we realized quickly that the disease itself was very, very contagious, and we needed to do something to be able to prevent the spread,” Cohen said.
“Initially, the thought was a lot of it was spread by touching surfaces, and putting your hands on your face, and so forth. And so there was talk about not wearing masks because if you touched an infected surface and then adjusted your mask, you’re actually bringing the infection up to your face. Now we’ve come to realize that probably the infection is largely not transmitted that way, it’s not largely transmitted by hand to face or surface to face transmission, but rather it’s by the droplet method when we speak to somebody else or when we cough or whatever.”
What is the scientific evidence showing that wearing a mask is effective?
“One category of evidence comes from actual laboratory studies of respiratory droplets and in these experiments that use high speed video … they found that hundreds of droplets ranging from like 20 to 500 micrometers in size were generated when you just simply speak, but that nearly all these droplets were blocked when a mouth was covered by a damp washcloth,” he said.
“But the strongest evidence as far as from the real-life things, so-called ‘epidemiological evidence,'” he continued. “For example, with the COVID infection, in states where there were mask mandates in 15 states and the District of Columbia, it was found that the mask mandates led to a slowdown in the daily COVID growth rate, whereas in states where they didn’t have it, it grew at a much more rapid rate.”
How many people need to wear masks in order to really reduce community transmission?
“Ideally, you’d have 100% of people wearing masks,” Cohen said. “But there are some mathematical models that have been done and simulations that have shown that if about 80% of the population wears masks, you could do more to reduce the spread of COVID than in a strict lockdown. So really, we could do better for our economy if we get 80% of the people to wear masks than we would do from shutting the economy down.”
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