Do face masks really reduce coronavirus spread? Experts have mixed answers.

Mar 24, 2020
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Here is the big problem with every article on this subject that involves opinions from "experts" on the use of masks is that the people being asked know absolutely nothing about respiratory protection. Yes, there, I said it. These articles ALWAYS involve quotes from epidemiologists. Seriously, does anyone know what epidemiologist do? The study the trends of various disease processes. They don't really know anything about respiratory protection. Frankly, I'm tired of hearing from a person who can't explain the difference between a P-100 and an N-95 and the classification process. And even the researchers who just did a study on masks and SARS CoV-2 FAILED to examine N-95 masks. These people have no clue what respiratory protection involves and how to achieve it. Now, if you get an engineer who works for NIOSH, I would be interested in hearing from them.
 
Apr 10, 2020
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Why do all these articles on masks think the medical N95 is the only proper respirator on Earth? There are many other respirators that can protect you from COVID-19. Standard non-medical respirators filter out just as well - N95, P95, P100, N100's and so on. Disposable versions or filters for reusable respirators like the 3M 7500 or GVS Elipse. I've been wearing my GVS in public with P100 filters and this provides better protection than an N95.

How is it I'm just an air brush artist but I know more about respirators than these epidemiologists and journalists?
 
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Apr 10, 2020
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How incredibly unhelpful these epidemiologists and journalists are. There are people on the internet that have figured out how to make homemade masks using HEPA filters, that properly fit and work just as good as an N95. But does anyone report on that? Nope. Do these epidemiologists study it? Nope.
 
May 5, 2020
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This whole debate is so frustrating.

The closing point, "We shouldn't be relying on masks to help us go back to normal."
No-one is suggesting that we should!!! Why is this point used when journalists summarise reasons not to wear masks?
It's the same when people say that wearing a mask can actually increase your risk because people touch the front of the mask when removing it, or people stop doing other measures such as social distancing. Of course we have to educate everyone on how to wear a mask in a way that won't reduce the benefits or even increase risk, but we don't just assume that the general public are too irresponsible to be trusted to wear masks properly. At least, if we are going to assume that, then shouldn't that assumption be based on rigorous scientific tests also?

In the 1st piece of research, "The researchers didn't look at distances beyond 7.8 inches to see if droplets didn't travel as far while people were wearing masks, Chu said."
That is ridiculous! Hasn't it been proven that when you cough, droplets or aerosols can travel up to 6 feet? So why would you only test to 7.8 inches?

Then the 2nd piece of research. I don't see how anyone could conclude from this that "it doesn't look from this study like there is a whole lot of benefit".
The research showed that wearing mask reduced coronavirus droplets & aerosols from 3 or 4 out of 10 to zero respectively! How is that not beneficial?!
True the sample size is small (17) but that doesn't mean you can conclude that masks are not of much benefit. It just means they could be.
And the point saying, "there was a large amount of non-mask-related variation in how much virus people emitted". That is completely irrelevant to the argument!

Let's just say there is insufficient evidence on mask wearing for science to say with certainty that wearing masks is beneficial.
Isn't there also insufficient evidence to say that not wearing a mask is beneficial?
You can choose to wear a mask, or you can choose to not wear a mask.
The lack of evidence on this does not mean we should default to not wearing masks. It just means we have a to make a choice without using science.
And when science can't provide an answer to which option to choose, surely we have to then rely on COMMON SENSE!
 
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May 10, 2020
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You don't have to be a genius to realize, all cloth masks do is give politician something for the general public to pin hopes on, while their is a shortage of masks that can actually help. It's a "feel good" measure only.
 
May 12, 2020
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You don't have to be a genius to realize, all cloth masks do is give politician something for the general public to pin hopes on, while their is a shortage of masks that can actually help. It's a "feel good" measure only.
Exactly. And the homemade masks just muffle people's voices and you can't hear them. Guess what people do when that happens? They lean closer. Was at a checkout last week and the cashier said something and I couldn't understand her. What happened was that both of us leaned closer so I could hear, she around the plexiglass barrier. These steps are all pointless and give a false sense of security. And who, I wonder, is going to pay for all those filters to fit into washable masks? No, we need to get back to normal - and normal does not include any masks.
 
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May 16, 2020
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This is a bafflingly silly piece and it's a bit surprising that this is on "Live Science". None of these woefully incomplete studies prove anything conclusive.

Meanwhile:

  1. Highly densely populated cities like Hong kong and Taipei have single digit fatalities despite no real lockdown. Everyone wears masks.
  2. New York has similar population as HK, and lower than Taipei. It has an incredibly large outbreak. Sure, the governments started their precautions late, but people still don't wear masks. CDC and FDA are still dithering on the matter, although CDC's website now, finally, in May, has a clear dictat: "wear masks".

Where's the study that speaks of viral load? If two people are wearing masks, even if the droplets do transmit, will the viral load not be substantially lower? Low viral load means milder Covid, which is highly desirable.

This entire analysis is missing, and even the likes of "ReutersFact check" and snopes are relying on this "Expert" advice to convey wrong info to people. Some of these people are commenting here and there's no doubt they're from countries that have high fatality tolls.
 
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May 16, 2020
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No, we need to get back to normal - and normal does not include any masks.
This is the most misguided comment you can make. I'm all for sensible reopening of the economy (with the vulnerable still quarantined to the extent they can be), but countries that have in fact worn masks have registered staggeringly positive outcomes.

Hong Kong or Taipei are densely populated and they have *single digit* fatalities. Why? Everyone wears masks, and wears them seriously and sensibly. Lockdowns won't do diddly if people get back to "normal" as you suggest. It'll just delay the inevitable.

Masks are absolutely vital to keeping transmissions low. Even if they don't completely prevent droplet transfer, they unequivocally lower the viral load. Low viral load means a milder infection, which is highly desirable.
 
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May 12, 2020
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The corona virus goes straight through homemade fabric masks. If the mask cannot prevent me from getting sick, I fail to see how it's going to prevent others from getting sick. Btw, before this, the reason people wore them in China, etc. was due to pollution, not for disease prevention.
I'm a realist. Like Bill Maher says, you can't sanitize the universe. Pathogens are everywhere. Masks can't be the new normal. Neither can sanitizing everything. One young man, wise beyond his years, asked a colleague in Walmart the other day, "What are all these chemicals doing to us?" the answer to defeating COVID, again, like Bill Maher said, is a strong immune system. Lockdowns don't "do diddly", period. They kept track of the numbers in New York. Guess where the majority of hospitalizations (66%) were coming from? Those who were sheltering in place. Those that remained the healthiest were those that were allowed to keep working. All conventional "wisdom" was wrong.
 
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May 17, 2020
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Though mask has it own benefit when compared with the population that does not wear it .
My question now is "why can't our expect look at the likely hood of getting the virus through the other portal of entry like the ear, anus and ultimately the eyes?"
Because I read a report claiming that it's possible to get it through the eyes .
But does mask cover the eyes?
 
May 27, 2020
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Epidemiologists are asked to comment because the bottom line comes down to how real world mask wearing will actually impact real world transmission rates. You can get all the people you want coughing into petri dishes with or without masks and with or without a current infection but ultimately it will tell you very little about what the impact will be on the pandemic if you don't also consider other pathways of transmission. An engineer, or other types of scientists, they can tell you how the mask is made and how it's supposed to work but they aren't going to know much about actual transmission pathways or epi modelling. Human behaviour is one of the hardest things to account for and it's constantly thwarting our public health efforts. As a public health researcher and planner, it can be completely shattering to come up with an intervention, watch it do well in a study and push to get it implemented at a population level only to watch absolutely nothing happen. No changes in the epidemiology. Nothing. We don't talk about it a lot, but there are a lot of failings and we honestly should because that's how we learn. The biggest reason by far is always human behaviour. You can try to educate, that can help, but behaviour is very difficult to change. It's why there's so much debate around this issue, because if you recommend masks, you're betting on the marginal benefit of the mask having a greater impact than the potential negative impacts on behaviour that it might have. The scale can very easily tip the other way if you aren't careful.
 
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May 31, 2020
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Maybe I'm missing something, but all the talk about virus particles getting through masks appears to me to overlook a very important point. Most masks impede airflow, and the virus particles are entrained in the air. This can easily be checked. With no mask on, blow on something like a strip of paper. The paper moves quite a bit. Put a mask on and blow again. Little or nothing happens, unless you have a woefully inadequate mask. Clearly, a decent mask can reduce both the mass and the speed of the air flowing out from you. (Some air goes out onto your cheeks. Some might go down onto your chin. So what?) Thus, the energy of air you exhale is reduced. Thus, it won't travel as far. Tests on whether there is any virus found at a ridiculously small distance from a mask are irrelevant to this important point.

Maybe this is what the commentor who talked about reduced viral load was referring to. It seems possible to me that a mask might reduce that load to zero at a distance substantially short of 6 feet.
 
Jun 1, 2020
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Is there a possible mistake? "For the seasonal coronavirus, researchers found the virus in droplets in 3 out of 10 samples from participants not wearing masks and in aerosols in 4 out of 10 samples taken without masks. " In this sentence, it appears both groups of participants were without masks. What was the sample breakdown for those with masks? Did I read this incorrectly? Otherwise, a great article. thanks.
 
Jun 10, 2020
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It strikes me that there is STILL today a glaring lack of solid research on the topic of the value of various masks in preventing the spread of covid19. Why is this so difficult? Why can't some university quickly design a study to produce conclusive results? I'd want to see various types of masks (from cloth on up to level 1, 2, 3, N95, P95, N100, P100, etc.). My impression is that better masks (level 2 on up) do a better job in both protecting bystanders from sick people wearing the mask as well as protecting the person wearing the mask from sick people around them. So why do we recommend cloth? Why don't we instead use our resources to mass produce masks that actually provide better protection? If we can mass produce ventilators, can't we mass produce effective masks? Yet it seems the politicians keep spinning the story to say cloth masks are good enough, and discouraging people from trying to do better. Even the WHO is filled with politicians. So why not produce a definitive study on this topic? It is sorely lacking right now, and could provide much needed science to this debate.
 
Jun 19, 2020
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My homemade mask WILL PROTECT AGAINST THE VIRUS. I make my mask with polypropylene inside. Polypropylene is the same as the N95 and CDC recommended and approved Polypropylene. WHO and CDC said the new requirements are to put polypropylene inside every homemade mask. MY MASK IS WATER RESISTANCE.
 
Jun 22, 2020
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A must read on this subject is an article written by J.B. Handley titled LOCKDOWN LUNACY: the thinking person's guide.


Science shows masks are ineffective to halt the spread of COVID-19, and The WHO recommends they should only be worn by healthy people if treating or living with someone with a COVID-19 infection.

We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection. Public health authorities define a significant exposure to Covid-19 as face-to-face contact within 6 feet with a patient with symptomatic Covid-19 that is sustained for at least a few minutes (and some say more than 10 minutes or even 30 minutes). The chance of catching Covid-19 from a passing interaction in a public space is therefore minimal. In many cases, the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic.

There’s no science to support the magic of a six-foot barrier either.
 
Apr 7, 2020
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This is a bafflingly silly piece and it's a bit surprising that this is on "Live Science". None of these woefully incomplete studies prove anything conclusive.

Meanwhile:

  1. Highly densely populated cities like Hong kong and Taipei have single digit fatalities despite no real lockdown. Everyone wears masks.
  2. New York has similar population as HK, and lower than Taipei. It has an incredibly large outbreak. Sure, the governments started their precautions late, but people still don't wear masks. CDC and FDA are still dithering on the matter, although CDC's website now, finally, in May, has a clear dictat: "wear masks".

Where's the study that speaks of viral load? If two people are wearing masks, even if the droplets do transmit, will the viral load not be substantially lower? Low viral load means milder Covid, which is highly desirable.

This entire analysis is missing, and even the likes of "ReutersFact check" and snopes are relying on this "Expert" advice to convey wrong info to people. Some of these people are commenting here and there's no doubt they're from countries that have high fatality tolls.
The viral load issue is controversial. Some believe a single particle can cause an infection as much as a larger dose. Unfortunately, the tests have been done on small animals and not humans due to ethical issues. Many people have mild symptoms and it is not known if it is due to low viral load or some other reasons. If the infection is independent of viral load (it would only take more days for the virus to multiply to a given level with low dose), then masks are not very effective. An infected person emits billions of particles in a short time and there is no 100% effective filter. There is no need to test the virus pass through beyond 7 inches as there are almost always air currents that will spread them. Mask cannot protect an uninfected person because the eyes are virus entry points. In some situations, the fewer emitted particles may reduce the chances of someone catching a particle such as in semi open facility. In a closed building without natural ventilation, the virus will spread around and this is probably what the problem is in New York with so many high rise apartments. Because of in and out traffic of people, it would be very difficult to trace the origin of the infections. Most Asean and African countries have much lower infection rates as they cannot afford HVAC and their buildings and shops are generally open and do not accumulate viruses. Vietnam is a country that has capitalized (they are communists though) on this concept of open ventilation and they have zero deaths and negligible infections. They do require masks but I don't think that is the reason. None of their health care workers have died either because they keep the windows open.
 
Apr 7, 2020
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The viral load issue is controversial. Some believe a single particle can cause an infection as much as a larger dose. Unfortunately, the tests have been done on small animals and not humans due to ethical issues. Many people have mild symptoms and it is not known if it is due to low viral load or some other reasons. If the infection is independent of viral load (it would only take more days for the virus to multiply to a given level with low dose), then masks are not very effective. An infected person emits billions of particles in a short time and there is no 100% effective filter. There is no need to test the virus pass through beyond 7 inches as there are almost always air currents that will spread them. Mask cannot protect an uninfected person because the eyes are virus entry points. In some situations, the fewer emitted particles may reduce the chances of someone catching a particle such as in semi open facility. In a closed building without natural ventilation, the virus will spread around and this is probably what the problem is in New York with so many high rise apartments. Because of in and out traffic of people, it would be very difficult to trace the origin of the infections. Most Asean and African countries have much lower infection rates as they cannot afford HVAC and their buildings and shops are generally open and do not accumulate viruses. Vietnam is a country that has capitalized (they are communists ironically) on this concept of open ventilation and they have zero deaths and negligible infections. They do require masks but I don't think that is the reason. None of their health care workers have died either because they keep the windows open.
 
Jun 16, 2020
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You don't have to be a genius to realize, all cloth masks do is give politician something for the general public to pin hopes on, while there is a shortage of masks that can actually help. It's a "feel good" measure only.
Nailed it. When the Covid-19 virus has a geospatial measurement of 0.0125 nm and the much-touted N-95 mask is tested to filter out 0.75 to 0.3 μ who are we kidding? It works fine for dust particles. It wasn't made with stopping a virus in mind.
 
Jan 1, 2020
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in fairness & with respect -its better than nothing at all & risk being punished by respective authority (in my case UK government)- having a fine & catching this horrendous disease
 
Apr 10, 2020
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Nailed it. When the Covid-19 virus has a geospatial measurement of 0.0125 nm and the much-touted N-95 mask is tested to filter out 0.75 to 0.3 μ who are we kidding? It works fine for dust particles. It wasn't made with stopping a virus in mind.
This is actually false because Covid19, like all viruses must bond to something larger. They do not travel on their own.

Here are is a quote from a USA Today article titled "Fact check: No, N95 Filters are not too large to stop COVID-19 particles":

The COVID-19 particle is indeed around 0.1 microns in size, but it is always bonded to something larger.


“There is never a naked virus floating in the air or released by people,” said Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech who specializes in airborne transmission of viruses.

The virus attaches to water droplets or aerosols (i.e. really small droplets) that are generated by breathing, talking, coughing, etc. These consist of water, mucus protein and other biological material and are all larger than 1 micron.


“Breathing and talking generate particles around 1 micron in size, which will be collected by N95 respirator filters with very high efficiency,” said Lisa Brosseau, a retired professor of environmental and occupational health sciences who spent her career researching respiratory protection.
 
Sep 25, 2020
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Reading the comments to this article was entertaining. People stating that China deaths were in the single digits because they wear masks. Opps, they forgot that China did not allow the spread in China. No one was allowed to travel domestically in and out of Wuhan, but Wuhan was allowed to travel internationally. Also do you really believe numbers or any other kind of reporting coming out of China? China finally halted flights late Jan but the virus had been active for months at that time.
 

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