Widespread Face Mask Use Could Prevent Second COVID-19 Wave

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Population-wide use of face masks keeps the Coronavirus “reproduction number” under 1.0, and prevents further waves of the virus when combined with lockdowns, a modeling study led by the University of Cambridge suggests. 

The research suggests that lockdowns alone will not stop the resurgence of SARS-CoV-2, and that even homemade masks with limited effectiveness can dramatically reduce transmission rates if worn by enough people, regardless of whether they show symptoms. 


The vaccine is at a minimum, one year away. The fastest way we may be able to reopen the economy is to manage this pandemic through a combination of social distancing and widespread face mask use. 


“We have little to lose from the widespread adoption of face masks, but the gains could be significant.”


Even if a cloth mask captures 50% of exhaled droplets, then it would still reduce the transmission of the virus by catching the wearer’s own virus particles. The droplets would be breathed directly into the fabric, stopping droplets from becoming airborne or touching neighboring surfaces. 


“There is a common perception that wearing a facemask means you consider others a danger,” said Professor John Colvin, coauthor from the University of Greenwich. “In fact, by wearing a mask you are primarily protecting others from yourself.” 


“Cultural and even political issues may stop people wearing facemasks, so the message needs to be clear: my mask protects you, your mask protects me.” 



Stutt et al. (2020). A modelling framework to assess the likely effectiveness of facemasks in combination with ‘lock-down’ in managing the COVID-19 pandemic. Proceedings of the Royal Society A. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1098/rspa.2020.0376 



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