Does wearing a mask really help?

With all of this back and forth talk from different media outlets, it is tough to trust what you should believe. Even some medical professionals can’t seem to agree on what we need to do to prevent the spread of COVID-19. I think one thing that most of us can agree on, we need to do something. (If you think it’s a hoax, this is not the blog for you. Sorry, not sorry.)

But does wearing a mask actually protect anyone? Or is this just the government trying to slap a band-aid on it? I’m not planning on answering that question for you. I think we should all be able to make up our own minds about what we believe is right. Instead, I’m going to present to you the facts as I see it and let you decide what you think is best from there. None of this is medical or legal advice; I am not employed in either field. Don’t sure me if you get sick, I have nothing to do with it.

Let’s start off with what the CDC says about wearing a mask. On June 28th of this year, the CDC updated its information about cloth coverings to prevent the spread of COVID. On this page, they start with a big warning for all who enter. “A cloth face covering may not protect the wearer, but it may keep the wearer from spreading the virus to others.” They explain that this virus spreads mostly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, breaths, etc. A mask, even a cloth one, traps these droplets inside of your own mask to prevent you from unknowingly spreading it to others.

However, according to Michael Robertson, with the California Globe, there is to much evidence against masks preventing the spread at all. He mentions a 2014 case study in Hanoi, Vietnam, to support his claim that wearing a mask increases the flu’s infection rate. “Moisture retention, reuse of cloth masks and poor filtration may result in increased risk of infection.” After reading the article myself, I had my doubts about this claim. The researchers of this study determined, “The null hypothesis is that there is no difference between medical masks and cloth masks.” In this report, they mention that statistically, medical masks prevent the spread of the virus better than cloth masks and that cloth masks are not recommended, but they also state that this could be due to the reuse of the masks. 

Cloth masks are generally retained long term and reused multiple times, with a variety of cleaning methods and widely different intervals of cleaning. Further studies are required to determine if variations in frequency and type of cleaning affect the efficacy of cloth masks.

Another thing that Mr. Robertson mentioned was the likely-hood of this virus spreading from a non-symptomatic person. In April of this year, the NCIRS did a case study on the spread of COVID in schools. This study looked at a little over 800 students and teachers in New South Wales from mid-March to the end of April. The results are as follows. 

SARS-CoV-2 transmission in children in schools appears considerably less than seen for other respiratory viruses, such as influenza. In contrast to influenza, data from both virus and antibody testing to date suggest that children are not the primary drivers of COVID-19 spread in schools or in the community. This is consistent with data from international studies showing low rates of disease in children and suggesting limited spread among children and from children to adults.”

They also mentioned “It is notable that on 23 March 2020 the NSW Premier advised that although schools remained open, parents were encouraged to keep their children at home for online learning. After this date face-to-face attendance in schools decreased significantly and this may have impacted the results of this investigation. Furthermore, school holidays commenced in NSW on Friday 10 April for two weeks.

There is a ton of information out there just like this. Every scientific article I have read on the matter has points to show that social distancing and masks help, but they also don’t. They show that it is highly contagious, but we also need more testing to be sure. My conclusion, no one knows what’s going on right now, which is understandable.

For me, I’m going to follow guidelines, wash my mask, and pray for the best. Even though I think you should do the same, I’m not your boss. I do encourage you to look at the facts from both sides of the argument, read the studies yourself, and decide for yourself if it’s worth it or not for you to wear one.

Let me know what you decided in the comments below, and please feel free to share your sources with me. I’m looking forward to hearing from you, and I hope your family stays safe in these trying times.

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