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Wearing a Mask is a Good Bet

July 30, 2020
Plain English Version

What is a face mask for? Months ago, the idea was that wearing a mask would keep people who had the coronavirus from spreading it to others. It is still a good reason.

There are new findings. Researchers now think the masks are for everyone. Not just people who have symptoms of the virus. A mask may also protect the people wearing them from getting the virus. The most important finding is that wearing a mask might mean that if you do get the virus you may get less sick. 

 The reason is that a mask allows fewer particles of coronavirus to come in. This makes it easier for human immune systems to deal with whatever virus comes in.

Some think a mask might stop the virus in its tracks. You will not get sick.

It is not possible to test this idea out on humans.

China tried the mask out on hamsters. They put coronavirus-infected animals in one cage. They put healthy animals in two cages. A buffer made of surgical masks separated one group of hamsters.  They exposed hamsters in the other cage to the infected hamsters.

The results?

Hamsters with the mask-like protection got less sick than hamsters who were in the other cage with no protection.

Many of the healthy hamsters behind the partition never got infected. 

There are signs this might work on people. Researchers think that about 40 percent of coronavirus infections do not produce any symptoms in people.

But when people wear masks, the number of cases without symptoms seems to rise.

Wearing a face covering does not make people immune from infection. The research hints that masks lead to milder disease. This could reduce the number of people in hospitals and the number of people dying. 

Experts say this news should convince people that wearing a mask is not just a “good deed.”

Masks may have driven down rates of infection in sites ranging from hospitals to hair salons

The idea that face coverings can help in this way “makes complete sense,” an expert said. “It is another good argument for wearing masks.”

At this point in the pandemic, you should not wait for more data. Wearing a mask makes you and others safer and likely healthier.

Source: The New York Times July 27, 2020

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