What Does Research Say About Mass Protection for General Population?

General

Social distancing is recommended but is hard to maintain in crowded places like the mall or grocery stores. Therefore, the health department has recommended that people wear a mask, whenever they move in the public to reduce the spread of the virus. A cloth mask made from cotton fabric is suggested. There are the surgical masks and N95 respirators, which are extremely protective as they are designed, form special textiles.

However, medical and safety masks are reserved for the healthcare facilities and first responders. The main reason is that in this pandemic situation the demand for masks in the healthcare sector is more than its supply.

Is the mask needed to avoid coronavirus infection? 

It is a troubling question because different answers are floating around given by different health authorities around the world.

  • In China, the Government has made wearing disposable masks mandatory.
  • In Hong Kong and Japan, people entering crowded places need to wear masks.
  • Germany’s Health ministry warns mask wearers that they are increasing risk under the feeling of false security.
  • American’s top healthcare official tweeted that stop buying masks as they are not effective in protecting the general public from COVID-19. [It was due to masks shortage for healthcare workers]

The US officials are trying to manage mask scarcity instead of speaking honestly about the effectiveness of masks. The public finds this infuriating because in Asia, the health officials say that masks are effective…….it’s common sense! They even recommend that people can put on homemade versions.

Researchers find no proof for the effectiveness of masks in the general population but will admit that they wear masks.

Are face masks capable to protect against COVID-19 infection?

The literature is clear on one aspect – Masks have been and is protecting healthcare workers from the extreme viral pathogenic environment they work in. From paper masks to ultra hi-filtration masks intended to stop aerosols are used in healthcare facilities.

Besides, the masks are fitted correctly and even because healthcare staffs know the way to remove the mask without getting infected from the outer surface that harbors the viruses. Studies have revealed that masks have protected healthcare staff from getting infected in the hospitals, where they take care of diseased patients.

Masks have even helped contaminated patients from spreading their disease to others. Whether everyone must wear a mask to reduce the pandemic spread is still not clear.

There is no conclusive evidence even after years of research because each study suffers from a confounding variable or small sample sizes that twist the results. People depend on science for clear advice and scientists often debate about gray areas. Today, the argument is regarding saving lives.

In this COVID-19 rapid spread, it is proven that specially manufactured masks ranging from surgical to N95 respirators offer some protection level to healthcare staff against transmission. WHO has recommended that caretakers at home and positive cases must wear a mask? However, on population-scale mask efficacy is still to be researched.

Bottom-line

The first defense line for the public is social distancing, regular hand wash, sterilize high-touch surfaces and avoid touching one’s face. It is also wise that everyone wears masks, even if there is still no evidence about its efficacy.

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