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Masks cut risk of COVID-19 infection by 65 percent, expert says


Wearing a face mask cuts the chance of coronavirus infection by 65 percent, an expert at UC Davis, a university in California, US said this week.

The research adds to a growing consensus that face masks are a crucial part of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, which has now officially infected over 12 million people worldwide.

A lady wearing a mask. /REUTERS

The advice from the scientific community on face masks has changed significantly since the genesis of the novel coronavirus.

In the early days of the outbreak, the public were generally told that a mask was only necessary for those infected with the virus. Today, most health authorities state nearly everyone, infected or not, should be wearing masks as a vital tool to stop the spread of the virus.

“Now we’ve learned more due to research and additional scientific evidence … wearing the mask protects the person whose wearing it, even the standard rectangle surgical mask, wearing those will decrease the risk of infection by about 65 percent,” Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children’s Hospital said during a livestream.

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Blumberg went on to directly address the mixed messaging directed at the public throughout the pandemic.

“On the issue of masks, I’d like to restate — because we’ve learned a lot … We’ve learned more due to research and additional scientific evidence. What we know now is that masks work and are very important,” he said, according to a report published by UC Davis.

The coronavirus has been found to have two primary modes of transmission, the first being through droplets expelled by carriers of the virus, such as by talking, sneezing or coughing, which masks can be an effective barrier against.

“Everyone should wear a mask … People who don’t wear a mask increase the risk of transmission to everyone, not just the people they come into contact with. It’s all the people those people will have contact with. You’re being an irresponsible member of the community if you’re not wearing a mask,” he said.

Meanwhile, the second mode of transmission has only recently come into the spotlight – airborne transmission. Scientists have been urging the World Health Organization (WHO) to acknowledge the growing case that COVID-19 lingers in the air, with the WHO last week saying that there is “evidence emerging” that the virus is airborne.

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Research has already been conducted that suggests that the coronavirus can last in the air for hours and can therefore be caught by breathing infected air.

William Ristenpart, a professor of chemical engineering at UC Davis and another member of the livestream, noted that this means it is important for people to social outside rather than indoors when possible.

“The good air flow will disperse the virus. If you are indoors, think about opening the windows. You want as much fresh air as possible,” he said, UC Davis reported.

In particular, Risetenpart urged caution in tight, loud social situations like a restaurant or bar as physical distancing is likely at a minimum and the virus can be transmitted through loud conversation.

“The louder you speak, the more expiatory aerosols you put out,” he explained.

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(With input from the agencies)

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