Mask Efficacy

There has been a lot of debate over whether masks really reduce the spread of COVID-19. Especially in the early days of the pandemic, the experts and authorities were giving conflicting information and advice from week to week. This should not be surprising. In the beginning, researchers didn’t understand how the virus spread, what factors could increase or decrease your changes of catching it when exposed, what types of exposures are the most dangerous, etc. Much of the data available at the time had to do with N95 masks only, and it seemed like some health officials had a knee-jerk “if you can’t wear a PROPER mask, don’t bother” attitude.

There is still a lot that we don’t know. We have a better handle on what the risk factors are, such as age and certain health conditions, but there are still mysteries about who gets it, how severe it is, and whether contracting the disease confers immunity against future infections. However, in the months since this started, I think we’ve come to a scientific consensus that wearing masks slows the spread. Wearing a mask may protect others more than it protects you. But if everybody wears one, we’re all protected.

Here are some links to articles which examine how useful and effective (or not) mask-wearing is. They include many links to the published papers for the studies so you can go deep if you want the details.

The bottom line is masks help. Wear your mask in public. Even if you think it won’t help you much, do it for me. Do it for my aging parents with compromised immune systems. Do it for my friend who doesn’t have a spleen because of a traffic accident. Do it for the stranger taking immunosuppressant drugs because they’ve had an organ transplant (but they still have to go to the grocery store or the DMV). Just do it. And whatever you do, don’t be this guy.