Recently, a new collaborative study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of California-San Diego, the University of Texas, and the California Institute of Technology have looked at the effectiveness of wearing face masks for coronavirus infection and has concluded that not wearing face-covering can greatly increase the risk of COVID-19.
Previously, wearing a face mask in public was debated during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic with many researchers claiming that face-covering cannot protect from the coronavirus infection.
On the other hand, other experts used previous research in showing that face masks have also helped in decreasing the spread of infections in previous epidemics as data from certain areas where people wore face masks more strictly showed there were lower rates of infection.
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As the coronavirus pandemic accelerated, health agencies ultimately advised people to wear a face mask whenever heading outdoors as new studies showed that while a face mask may not provide 100% protection from the coronavirus infection, they can cut down the risk of its transmission.
This means that people with both symptomatic and asymptomatic coronavirus infections will effectively prevent transmitting the virus to other people while wearing a face mask.
Since the majority of the people show no symptoms, it is better to wear a mask for personal protection as well as for protecting other people.
However, the new research, whose findings appear in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), shows that guidelines on wearing a face mask have prevented more infections than expected.
The researchers reached this conclusion by analyzing data on coronavirus trends, spread, and mitigation the most hardly-hit areas including New York in the US, China, and Italy.
More precisely, the researchers found that wearing a mask was responsible for the prevention of more than sixty-six thousand cases in New York and around seventy-eight thousand cases from the beginning of April to mid-May in Italy.
Renyi Zhang, who is a Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M and one of the leading investigators of the study explained that the findings highlight how respiratory aerosols were the main mode of coronavirus transmission in all of the epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic.
He further added that wearing a mask has been one of the most effective preventive measures taken to avoid the further spread of the coronavirus infection as the practice had prevented over sixty thousand infections in New York in a time span of only a month.
According to the researchers, the practice of wearing a face mask combined with other preventive measures such as social distancing and frequent handwashing is fundamental in controlling the coronavirus pandemic.
Unless people follow these instructions strictly, the coronavirus infection is likely to make a comeback regardless of imposing restrictions and lockdown for weeks.
Mario Molina, who is a Nobel Prize winner and a professor at the University of California-San Diego, was also one of the authors of the new paper. Molina explained that wearing a face mask for coronavirus is more beneficial than previously assumed.
More precisely, Molina explained that wearing a mask is essential not only for stopping infected droplets from reaching other people but is “crucial for these uninfected persons to avoid breathing the minute atmospheric particles (aerosols) that infected people emit when talking and that can remain in the atmosphere tens of minutes and can travel tens of feet,”
According to the team, the findings accentuate that the acceleration of the coronavirus pandemic is largely due to neglecting the importance of airborne transmission of the virus. Therefore, wearing a face mask is equally important for containing the coronavirus infection.