Face-Mask Use by Public Can Mitigate Spread of COVID-19
Population-level benefits of face-mask adoption found, even where wearers are placed at increased risk
THURSDAY, June 11, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Face-mask use by the public, in combination with physical distancing and periods of lockdown, can mitigate the spread of the new coronavirus, according to a study published online June 10 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A.
Richard O.J.H. Stutt, Ph.D., from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and colleagues reported the results of two mathematic models examining the dynamics of COVID-19 epidemics when face masks are worn by the public, with or without lockdown periods.
The researchers note that when face masks are used by the public all the time, the effective reproduction number can be reduced to less than 1, mitigating the spread of the epidemic. When lockdown periods are implemented in combination with 100 percent face-mask use, there is less disease spread, secondary and tertiary waves can be flattened, and the epidemic can be brought under control. Assuming that face masks are only 50 percent effective at capturing exhaled virus inoculum, with an equal or low efficiency of inhalation, this effect still occurs. Face-mask adoption provides population-level benefits even where wearers are placed at increased risk, for example by touching their face more often. In addition, even at lower levels of adoption, there are benefits for face-mask wearers.
"There is a common perception that wearing a facemask means you consider others a danger," a coauthor said in a statement. "In fact, by wearing a mask you are primarily protecting others from yourself."