Face Masks & Social Distancing Effectiveness, New Look Confirms:
At times, laws and regulations can seem a bit arbitrary.
Even the WHO itself has been really inconsistent about its recommendations on face masks, and seems to be constantly correcting itself or walking something back.
Lucky for us, the CDC has been a bit better & more reliable.
But whatever rules & recommendations we get in a difficult time, most of us are willing to follow them out of a sense of caution.
Well, a group of researchers at a Canadian university looked at all the data they could find, and the results on what we’ve been told to do are looking pretty good…
The Standards Were Based On The Infection Mechanism:
We learned a little while ago from the Joe Rogan Experience that coronavirus infects through breathing.
And just recently, we found out how effective even simple 2-3 layer masks can be at stopping the virus from moving through the air.
But we didn’t have much definitive work on the change on infection-rates from using masks or other measures until now.
And The Short Answer is that Social Distancing and Face Masks for average people, and even Eye Protection for healthcare workers, all really do reduce infection-rates by at-least 10 percent.
Read on to find out the details.
Droplets Vs. Aerosols. Six Feet Is The Key:
So one of the keys lies in that magical social-distancing standard we’ve been given.
I have no idea who came up with it, but 6 feet is what we have as a guideline.
And in the post on mask-effectiveness, one of the key points explored was stopping the larger droplets most likely to cause an infection,
Because the jury is still out on whether the smaller particles in “Aerosols” are infectious, or by how much.
And don’t get the WHO started on all the myths about it, including if coronavirus can be stopped by either hot or humid weather.
But one of the more-interesting cases made by public health officials was that the larger droplets that the coarser mask-layers block,
Also fall to the ground within about 6 feet, rendering them much less infectious than if they were still hanging in the air and breathable.
(though they can still stick to your shoes)
Round 1 What The Study Found On Social-Distancing:
So that distance is one of the things researchers from McMaster University looked at in their meta-analysis of every relevant study done on airborne infection by viruses.
So for Physical-Distancing, almost 10 different studies were examined.
These included work on 3 Covid-family bugs: SARS, MERS, and COVID-19.
And across those nearly 8,000 participants, the researchers found that for people standing 1 meter (3.3 feet) apart,
The subjects were 10% less likely to become infected.
Wait, it gets even better.
Because the data also suggests that after the risk goes down to 3% at the one meter mark,
It also gets cut in HALF for every meter you stand apart, up to about 2-3 meters.
So that Six Feet Apart rule is a VERY good one, and not just a random guess!
Don’t Listen To The WHO’s Earliest Comments On Face Masks:
Next up: Face Masks.
Let’s face it, the WHO was full of it when they said people don’t need to wear masks unless they are infected, or caring for someone who is.
Because, if you listen to Dr. Michael Osterholm, and the teams that conducted the studies on their effectiveness,
You’d know 1) COVID-19 spreads by Breathing, and 2) You can absolutely be sick and have no symptoms.
Not only that, but researchers have found that even if you’re not wearing the professional-grade stuff that healthcare workers require, like an N95 respirator,
At the very least, face masks will protect other people from you if you are sick, especially if you don’t know about it.
If they have a really good seal, particularly around the bridge of your nose, they might even protect you from other people who are sick, too.
And the latest round of research corroborates that!
The Study-Analysis Confirms The Need For Facemasks Too:
Across 10 different studies, again with the 3 variants of coronavirus we know about so far, SARS, MERS, & COVID-19,
Almost 2,700 subjects showed the rate of infection dropped from 17% with no masks being worn,
All the way down to 3% when people (I’m assuming all parties) wore face masks.
Just like with the previous tests on Social-Distancing, a huge relative-decrease in infection rates!
And if you get a really good cloth one with several layers, some cotton, some polyester, that seals very well around your face,
That will be a big change for you, especially if you can’t stay home and have to be out & around people while still keeping your distance.
Face-Shields. Another Part Of Professional PPE Works, Too:
Lastly, more of a note for health-care professionals.
The crazy lengths they have to go to to protect themselves are surprising.
All of the Personal-Protective-Equipment they have to wear just to try to keep huge quantities of aerosolized-viruses off them is heroic.
From the smocks & gowns, to everything else they are running out of and sometimes have to reuse.
Well, there is more good news.
Good News For The Front-Line Folks!:
Thirteen studies that looked again at the 3 types of viruses, and across nearly 3,800 subjects,
All showed a net-decrease in infection rates if people like healthcare workers wore some type of eye-protection.
Just like the other 2 mitigation efforts they looked at, the decrease was about 10 percent,
Going from a high of ~16% infection-rate with no eye-protection, down to 6% when subjects did wear something like goggles or a face-shield.
-Which is also really positive, because that means all the different technology guys around the world who repurposed their 3-D printers to make brackets for face-shields really did help out an awful lot of people!
Here are a few examples in the Linus Tech Tips video on their efforts to help out front-line healthcare workers:
The Reference Work That Confirms The Public-Health Advice:
Either way, it’s incredibly nice to have some pretty good reference studies in-hand for the measures we’ve all been asked to take-on.
When you’re in the middle of a crisis, many things can weirdly seem both necessary and also arbitrary.
So even though the confidence of some of this work varies, it still seems to reinforce the standards set-forth by the wiser public health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci and the people at the CDC.
Though we still have to keep sanitizing both surfaces and our hands to be as safe as we can,
The researchers remind us that even all of these put together will bring the infection rate MUCH lower,
They will still not bring it to Zero.
So hopefully we can all keep these practices up for as long as we need to,
And maybe one day have the luxury to stop wearing masks, and social distancing, because we’ll eventually have a vaccine for COVID-19.
References & Links:
• Source: McMaster U.
• More Coverage: CDC – Protecting Yourself & Others From Coronavirus
• Source Study: The Lancet – Physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection to prevent person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis
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