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.
Today, the United States reports 2,679,230 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 128, 024 deaths. Georgia reports 84,709 cases, 11,500 hospitalizations, 2,389 ICU admissions and 2,849 deaths. Of those tested, 9.1% of the population is testing positive. The Georgia Department of Public Health recommends covering your mouth and nose with a cloth mask when around others. The GDPH website states, “everyone should wear a cloth face cover in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household” Surgical and N95 masks should be reserved for medical personnel. In addition, avoid close contact with those who do not live in your home (stay at least 6 feet away); wash your hands often; cover your coughs and sneezes; clean and disinfect surfaces often; and monitor your own health daily.
So the next time you are scrolling through your feed or listening to a grouchy relative complain that no one needs to be wearing a mask in the middle of a global pandemic for which there is no vaccine, cover your ears – because they are flat out wrong. Then cover your mouth and nose with a secure mask because we have to protect everyone – even the ones who won’t protect themselves.