Masks Protect The Wearer Not Just Others

When it comes to masking for COVID-19, many of us have gotten used to the idea of covering up to protect other people from our germs. We want to be good people who care about others so we wear masks to protect them. There are whole PSAs built on "protecting grandma." And it's true that they do protect others. Masks can catch many of the vapor particles we breathe out or at least reduce how far we eject them. Until now, experts have been skeptical about how much they can filter what we breathe in. A new study might change the prevailing view one more time.

New Findings in Mask Wearing and COVID-19

In an article recently published in The Lancet, the COVID-19 Systematic Urgent Review Group Effort (SURGE) study authors performed a meta-analysis on a total of 216 relevant studies. Altogether, researchers were able to collect info on 25,697 patients. Here’s what they found:

  • People can reduce their risk of infection by remaining at least 1 meter (roughly 3.5 feet) from carriers of the virus.
  • People who distance at least 2 meters from infected individuals are even less likely to get infected.
  • Face masks offer wearers additional protection, which varies depending on the type of mask. N95 respirators are best, but other masks offer different degrees of coverage. Layers seem to be key.
  • Eye protection also reduces infection risk but only when combined with masks. Face shields are not adequate protection alone.

It's great to protect others. And important. But we also need to take care of ourselves and make sure that we stay well so we're better able to take care of others. And this is the most effective strategy to do so: Combining distance, an effective mask and eye protection is likely the best way to avoid personal infection.

The Bottom Line on Mask Wearing and COVID-19

Most of us don’t enjoy wearing face masks, but we don’t have any other realistic alternatives right now and a piece of fabric on the face is better than the ICU, we promise. Apathy, misinformation, holiday gatherings, and irritation with the length of time it's gone on are creating surges around the country and we could be looking at a whole new level of devastation if we don’t act together to slow the spread.

Many of us, exhausted with ever-changing guidelines and minimal results, have lost our patience with experts and media alike. Without solid and cohesive information, people will continue to butt heads over the best way to go about snuffing this pandemic to their own detriment and with a cost of lives lost that didn't have to be lost. So let's mask up for one another and also for ourselves. 

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1/15/2021 8:00:00 AM
Wellness Editor
Written by Wellness Editor
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