The most common cause for the spread of COVID-19 infection is through breathing it in. Respiratory droplets are produced when people breath, and the virus is carried in these droplets. Sneezing or coughing obviously increases the amount of droplets sprayed into the air. Also, eating, drinking, and chewing gum increases the amount of saliva in your mouth which will also increase the amount of respiratory droplets you expel.
We know that wearing masks and social distancing was effective, because when it was implemented the number of COVID-19 cases would go down and the number of deaths would go down. Then, when there was a holiday or and event and people ignored the precautions, the cases and deaths went up again. Then, before the vaccine was widely available, the cases and deaths went down again due to the masks and social distancing. Some people started getting the vaccine, and then everything opened. A lot of people stopped social distancing and wearing masks, and not just the people that got the vaccine. So that allowed the virus to continue to spread. The more it spread, the more opportunities it has to mutate and become something even worse.
When have masks not worked? This is a good opportunity to learn from history. 100 years ago, there were mask mandates to try and prevent the spread of the Spanish Flu. However, in at least 1 state, they found that the number of cases and deaths did NOT go down. A study that analyzed the implementation of the mask laws discovered that people used their masks when they went out, but then removed them when they went inside to go to work or socialize. This is in line with what we are learning about COVID-19. We are less at risk outside and more at risk when we enter a closed space. Now we know when we are most at risk so that we can avoid it all together, or at least reduce it by wearing our masks correctly.
Another study discovered that masks do not protect against human behavior. Further reasons the Spanish Flu continued to spread is that masks were used until they were filthy, worn in a way that offered little or no protection (under the nose), and failure of cooperation. That was 100 years ago.
Today we have the knowledge and no excuses. Masks are inexpensive and widely available so there’s no need to wear filthy masks. We know the purpose of the mask is to stop our breath from circulating in the air, so there’s no reason to wear the mask ineffectively or under your nose. We know that we are at greatest risk in closed spaces, so there’s no reason to remove the mask during gatherings.
It is also good to remember that the mask you wear is to protect others. The mask that others wear is to protect you.
I’m often skeptical when I hear people talking about percentages because we know that 92.7% of all percentages are made up on the spot, but this is one I’m inclined to believe. They say that 80% of disease is spread by 20% of the population. This is the human behavior factor the study was referring to. The 20% of the population that refuse to recognize the risk of transmission or don’t practice good habits to reduce that risk.
This disease is an obstacle, but it doesn’t have to be one that we have to overcome, it can be completely removed. Please don’t be part of that 20%. Practice good hygiene. Get vaccinated if you can. Maintain 6-feet of distance. And wear your mask.
Influenza, A Study of Measures Adopted For The Control Of The Epidemic. Wilfred H. Kellogg. University of California State Printing Office, 1919.
Influenza; An Epidemiologic Study. Warren T. Vaughan. Baltimore, The American Journal of Hygiene, 1921
Pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov : Super-spreaders in infectious diseases; Richard A. Stein. International Journal of Infectious Diseases, 2011/08/15