For many individuals, wearing a mask during a workday or while running errands is a relatively new experience. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health experts have encouraged Americans to mask up while out and about, how do masks help exactly?
How Does Coronavirus Travel?
COVID-19 is a new respiratory virus that has not previously been seen in humans. Transmission with this virus is similar to other respiratory illnesses, often spreading through what are known as droplets. Droplets are tiny particles released from the mouth and nose when individuals talk, cough, sneeze, etc. Viruses from the individual hitch a ride on the small water droplets and can travel to another host. Droplets can deposit the pathogen on surfaces, or the particles can float in the air for a while and be inhaled by another person.
How Do Masks Work?
A common misconception with mask-wearing is that a mask will prevent you from inhaling pathogens. This is not the case. A mask helps prevent water droplets carrying the virus from spreading and hanging in the atmosphere. This means that masks are only effective if most of the people in an area are wearing them.
Because masks only help prevent the spread from infected individuals, some may wonder why they should wear one if they aren’t sick. People infected with COVID-19 are contagious, meaning they can spread the virus, for up to 2 weeks before they even begin to show symptoms. Others may even be completely asymptomatic, meaning they show no symptoms at all during the time they are infected, but can still spread it. In other words, people who look and feel completely healthy may still be unknowingly spreading the virus.
Who Do Masks Benefit?
The simple answer to this question is everyone! While not every person is a high-risk individual, masks help to maintain some sort of normalcy during the quarantine. They make it safer to go shopping, make a bank run, or visit a doctor’s office.
Individuals at high risk for coronavirus complications are especially benefited by the general population wearing masks. Those who are elderly, immunocompromised, or have underlying conditions such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, asthma, liver disease, and other conditions, are at a higher risk of complications and even death.
All in all, masks are a simple way people can protect themselves and others around them. Although they may be a slight inconvenience, masking up helps save lives and allows individuals to go out in public in a much safer way.