TRIGGER ALERT: MASK-SHAMING AHEAD — WITH SCIENCE ATTACHED!
Social media is a breeding ground for bad information. Some people have complained recently, through social media mostly, that wearing a mask is detrimental to their mental health and there is no science behind the need to wear a mask in a pandemic. These memes, posts, tweets and comments get passed around without any scientific back-up, but carry the weight of dogma.
The science behind mask-wearing in a global pandemic exists. The Center for Disease Control (“CDC”) recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public setting and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing is difficult to maintain. The people who should not wear a face-covering are the following: 1) children under 2; 2) anyone who has trouble breathing; 3) anyone who is unconscious or otherwise unable to remove a mask. In support of these recommendations the CDC lists 19 studies on the efficacy of masks to control the spread of contagious diseases from the period 2012 to 2019. You can find that information here.
A recent study in Health Affairs compared the COVID-19 growth rate before and after mask mandates in 15 states and the District of Columbia. Mask mandates slowed the daily growth rate by 0.9 percent. By three weeks, a mask mandate had slowed the growth rate by 2 percentage points. One study predicted that 33,000 deaths could be avoided by October 1 if 95% of people wore masks in public. Even if 80% of the population wore masks in public, this could be more effective than a lockdown in slowing the growth rate of this contagious disease. Six months into this pandemic, enough data has been gathered to determine that masks are critical in mitigating the COVID-19 spread.