A growing number of studies are beginning to provide evidence that wearing a mask in public may, in fact, provide a significant amount of protection against COVID-19.
The wearing of masks during the COVID-19 pandemic remains a controversial topic, however, there is mounting support for the use of masks in public places, particularly indoors where physical distancing is difficult.
Researchers studied droplets that were spread during speaking and measure how long they stayed in the air using a laser light scattering method. The researchers recorded a person speaking for a period of twenty-five seconds. The recording continued for 80 minutes after the person finished speaking, after which the researchers were able to analyze the video for amount of scattered particles.
The researchers estimated that one minute of ‘loud speaking’ can disperse 1,000 droplets containing virus particles into the air. The researchers determined that these droplets that were spread into the air could stay suspended in the air for more than eight minutes. Theses particles could then be inhaled by those in close proximity and, according to the researchers, are “eminently capable of transmitting disease in confined spaces.” 1
Some researchers have suggested that existing evidence of virus particles suspended in droplets in the air suggests that these particles can spread more than the currently recommended 2 metres (6 feet) physical distancing recommendation, asserting that “inter-personal distance of 2 m can be reasonably considered as an effective protection only if everybody wears face masks in daily life activities.” 2
It is important to note that wearing face masks may be dangerous for some people. Face masks should not be placed on children younger than two years of age. Others who should not wear masks include who have trouble breathing or those who are unable to remove masks on their own.
Currently, the CDC and Health Canada recommend the wearing of non-medical face masks when you are in public places, particularly where it is difficult to maintain physical distancing, for example at stores or when using public transport. 3,4
- The airborne lifetime of small speech droplets and their potential importance in SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Valentyn Stadnytskyi, Christina E. Bax, Adriaan Bax, Philip Anfinrud. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Jun 2020, 117 (22) 11875-11877; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2006874117 https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/05/12/2006874117
- Setti, L.; Passarini, F.; De Gennaro, G.; Barbieri, P.; Perrone, M.G.; Borelli, M.; Palmisani, J.; Di Gilio, A.; Piscitelli, P.; Miani, A. Airborne Transmission Route of COVID-19: Why 2 Meters/6 Feet of Inter-Personal Distance Could Not Be Enough. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17, 2932. https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/17/8/2932
- CDC. Considerations for Wearing Cloth Face Coverings. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html
- Government of Canada. Non-medical masks and face coverings: About. Available at:https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/prevention-risks/about-non-medical-masks-face-coverings.html
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