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How Does Science Support Wearing Masks?

woman opening door with mask on
(Photo: Getty Images)

Science is often a great way to find solutions to modern day issues. We've figured out how to easily communicate with folks around the world, 3-D print parts for a space station, and through many contributions have increased the quality of life in many places around the globe. The novel coronavirus though has given us a whole new challenge. Top experts are busy working on a vaccine, but till then what do scientists around the world suggest we do? How does science support wearing masks? 

Even as COVID-19 continues to spread through some US states, many places including the Commonwealth have chosen to move forward with reopening the economy and allowing people to intermingle once again. This opens the door to further spread of the virus. Unless we use some state-of-the-art understanding of how this respiratory virus spreads to keep us and others safe as we reenter the world around us.

A new study published in the journal the Lancet looked at all of the new knowledge about how COVID-19 spreads alongside similar diseases from other, related coronaviruses. This “systematic review” of recent studies then asked questions about the most effective strategies for minimizing the spread of these diseases. Their research pooled findings from over 170 studies, representing the understanding of the transmission of these viruses from over 25,000 patients in 16 countries.

The take-home conclusion of this work? Physical distancing of over 3 feet and proper use of face masks (over your mouth AND nose), respirators, and eye protection in public were all associated with lower transmission rates of the viruses. As we wait for a vaccine to be developed, tested, and made available, these protective measures are likely our best bet in minimizing our risk of spreading the disease to others around us.

So, what does this mean as the Commonwealth moves toward the governor’s Phase 3 reopening? It's simple really: Wear a mask! Stay apart from others! By doing so you will continue to be vigilant Virginians!