As the pandemic changes, in some cases receding, and in others mutating, some countries reopen their activities, and others have begun to authorize the disappearance of the mask in public spaces as long as a certain distance is kept. Some of the leading experts on the spread of the virus consider that this is not recommended.
These changing patterns can cause confusion among the public about the usefulness of masks. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States, and the World Health Organization, consider the use of masks for the general public is still necessary.
In areas where the virus circulates, regardless of whether it is a closed room, or an outdoor space, masks should be used whenever the environment is crowded, and where you cannot be at least 1 meter from other people. Public events, no matter how outdoors, do not guarantee this separation, and the virus has proven to be airborne.
Vaccination is not at this time the best guarantee against contagion, since new variants, and others that may arise in the future, can modify the effect of vaccines from a very effective one to a much more moderate one. Also, it is not always easy to determine the quality of ventilation, which depends on the rate of change of air, recirculation, and fresh outside air.
So if in doubt, it is safer to just to wear a mask. Health experts say the evidence is clear that masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, and that the more people wear masks the better.
A growing number of studies, such as those seen in Table 1, have provided convincing evidence that universal mandatory mask use policies have achieved considerable reductions in the rate of infections and deaths. These studies do not distinguish the types of masks, whether cloth, surgical, or KN95, used in the community. They only prove that its usefulness is beyond question.
In this context, it is fortunate that the production of masks has not stopped, and that multiple companies linked to textile production, such as Grupo Karim’s, continue with the production and sale of such a useful shield against the virus.
The advantages of using a masks that you should not forget
As a first and special point, the masks protect other people besides you. The main way the coronavirus is spread is from person to person by respiratory droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. However, masks can block these drops. They act as a barrier to prevent virus-containing particles from escaping from an infected individual and falling onto another person.
The mask is an advantage also when you may not be aware that you carry the virus. Masks were initially recommended only for people who knew they had COVID-19, as a way to protect others. However, when it became clear that the virus can be transmitted by people who never develop symptoms, the guidelines were expanded, urging everyone to cover themselves with a mask.
Many thought that with vaccines the problem would be solved in an instant. The variants that are appearing, as well as the lack of a 100% effective vaccine and pharmacological therapies to treat all people with COVID-19, make preventive measures that were considered too “simple”, such as hand washing, physical distancing, or the use of masks, remain the most effective strategies to stay safe from the virus.
It is important then that you remember that a growing number of studies still point to masks as a powerful tool, which can help control the spread of the virus that has been responsible for more than 3 million deaths worldwide.