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How masks stop the spread of COVID-19

How masks stop the spread of COVID-19

At the beginning of the coronavirus alerts for South Africa, the jury was out on the effectiveness of wearing a mask in public. Then, as research progressed, a mask became a compulsory part of daily living. Now, even in the move to the very relaxed social parameters of level 1 lockdown, the wearing of a mask is still one of the remaining requirements for slowing the spread of COVID-19.

International Health Laws

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization both initially said that masks weren’t necessary, then changed their minds and the directive. They now recommend that the general public wear cloth masks. These shifting guidelines were confusing and stood as a point of contention between the public and communal spaces and businesses like shopping malls etc. People argued that the CDC had refuted the claims that masks were necessary, and some refused to wear them while shopping and so forth.

But later on, health experts confirmed that the evidence is clear that masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. It became the directive from government that the more people wear masks, the better. The initial CDC guidance was based on what was thought to be low disease prevalence earlier in the pandemic, meaning that everyone buying masks would have been unnecessary and a waste of their money. However, as the research progressed, it became apparent that the masks were an extra barrier between the droplets of saliva and contaminated air moving from person to person.

Medical Grade masks

UC San Francisco epidemiologist George Rutherford, MD, told the paper at the University of California San Francisco that the legitimate concern was that the very limited supply of surgical masks and N95 respirators was best saved for healthcare workers. This move should, however, not have stopped more nuanced messaging about the benefits of wearing a mask, any mask. “We should have told people to wear cloth masks right off the bat,” he continued.

What may have finally convinced the CDC to change the guideline in favour of masks were the rising disease prevalence and a more precise understanding that both pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic transmission was taking place. Studies have found that viral loads peak in the days before symptoms even begin and that ‘speaking’ is enough to expel virus-carrying droplets.

“I think the biggest thing with COVID-19 now, which shapes all of this guidance on masks is that we can’t tell who’s infected,” said Chin-Hong. “You can’t look in a crowd and say, “Oh, that person should wear a mask. There’s a lot of asymptomatic infection, so everybody has to wear a mask.”

How much protection do cloth face masks offer?

According to the medical experts, a combination of face masks and other preventive measures, like frequently washing and sanitising your hands and adhering to proper social distancing measures, are all needed to help slow the spread of the virus.

This is now the standard way of living for the average Joe.

However, there is a legitimate concern regarding the effectiveness of the cloth mask for the public, when professionals are supposed to wear medical-grade masks or respirator masks in medical environments. This poses the question of whether or not the cloth masks are aesthetic or actually useful.

Many viral videos show that certain cloth masks still let air through, but the experts say it stops the spittle droplets from transferring to the next person.

A cloth mask is intended to trap the droplets that are released when the wearer talks, coughs or sneezes the Mayo Clinic explains.

Cloth face coverings are most likely to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus when people in public places widely use them. Regions all over the world that required face masks, testing, isolation and social distancing early on have successfully slowed the spread of COVID-19.

While surgical and N95 masks may be in short supply and should be reserved for healthcare providers, cloth face coverings and masks are easy to find or make and can be washed and reused.

You can make your own cloth mask from everyday clothing material. Instructions are easy to find online. The CDC website even includes directions for no-sew masks made from bandannas and T-shirts.

Be sure to use multiple layers of fabric.

For further guidance on how to stay healthy, read up on your region’s official coronavirus website. If you feel sick, contact your healthcare provider. 

If you don’t have one, consider a medical insurance life Affinity Health. We have a network of trained professionals to cover all your medical needs.