Masks only work properly if you also distance, new study shows

Face covering can help control Covid-19 transmission in the community, but it shouldn’t be a substitute for other coronavirus measures like social distancing, according to scientists.

In a new model study, researchers in the United States found that a 10% increase in self-reported mask wear was linked to a threefold increase in the likelihood of keeping the reproductive number R below 1.

R is the number of people an infected person passes the virus on on average. If the R-value is above 1, it means that the epidemic is increasing.

The experts said their results, published in the journal Lancet Digital Health, suggest that communities in the United States with high reported mask wear and physical distancing have the highest predicted likelihood of transmission control.

Ben Rader of Boston Children’s Hospital and Boston University in the US, co-author of the study, said, “A key finding from this research is that wearing masks is not a substitute for physical distancing.”

Researchers used a web-based survey to collect face-covering habits data from more than 300,000 people in the United States between June 3 and July 27, 2020.

They also used anonymized data from Google users who chose to share their location history on their mobile devices with information from other Covid-19 tracking projects.

However, the researchers stress that their study only establishes a link between wearing face coverings and slowing down virus transmission, and cannot prove a direct cause and effect.

They said it is possible that people who claim to wear face coverings will engage in other behaviors that will reduce their risk of Covid-19 infection, such as: B. Increased hand washing, which was not treated in the study.

Dr. Christina M. Astley, clinician and epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School and co-author of the study, said, “Our results suggest that the widespread use of face masks to control Sars-Cov-2 (the virus that which causes Covid) can contribute -19) transmission.

“The world is facing a more communicable strain of coronavirus, hospitals are grappling with new cases and vaccination programs are still in place.

“Interventions are now needed to reduce the burden on our health systems.

“This research provides additional evidence that these interventions should include wearing face masks for self-protection and physical distancing.”

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