Monday, June 15, 2020

Face Masks: Oh, the Difference They Make in COVID-19 Cases

Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

Those masks.

What a difference they make.

In the June 10 issue of Morning Rounds, Shraddha Chakradhar directs attention to this new analysis of the value of face masks which showed that there were "78,000 fewer infections between early April and early May. In New York City, a face covering mandate was associated with 66,000 fewer Covid-19 infections between April 17 and May 9. The authors of the analysis conclude that this inexpensive measure "corresponds to the most effective means to prevent interhuman transmission" of Covid-19." 

The scientific paper on which this is based is found was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (June 11, 2020).

It begins with a statement about the significance of the research. The last sentence refers to how essential sound science in decision-making. It is!

We have elucidated the transmission pathways of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) by analyzing the trend and mitigation measures in the three epicenters. Our results show that the airborne transmission route is highly virulent and dominant for the spread of COVID-19. The mitigation measures are discernable from the trends of the pandemic. Our analysis reveals that the difference with and without mandated face covering represents the determinant in shaping the trends of the pandemic. This protective measure significantly reduces the number of infections. Other mitigation measures, such as social distancing implemented in the United States, are insufficient by themselves in protecting the public. Our work also highlights the necessity that sound science is essential in decision-making for the current and future public health pandemics.

The paper has a section on policy differences which you may miss based on the abstract. It is at the end and discusses the two main protective measures, social distancing and face masks. There are real  differences when they are made together or alone or when implementation times are different between them as well as first beginning them.

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