The Science Behind Masks


Anvita Koneru, journalist

When you think of Covid – 19, one of the FIRST things that comes to mind is masks. These are one of the only things scientists, doctors, and physicians alike agree helps guard against the virus. But why? Is it merely just a prop, or is there science behind the thick fibers of a surgical mask? The simple answer – there’s definitely science behind them. The proof? Look at what happened to president Trump who didn’t wear a mask; he contracted the coronavirus. Masks are vital in mitigating the harm that the pandemic causes. The next two paragraphs will explain the reasons why.

The first reason – They cloth protects against droplets or airborne particles of anything, like smoke, or virus particles. Evidence comes from a laboratory study using various mask materials and studying the impact of respiratory droplets on them. It’s simple – masks protect your mouth and nose from the surface level. But the most convincing evidence proving masks are effective comes from real life examples. The most important thing is the epidemiologic data. A recent study published in Health Affairs compared the Covid – 19 growth rate before and after masks were made mandatory in 15 states and Washington DC. It found that making masks compulsory led to a decrease in Covid – 19 growth rate, which increased over time. The first five days after enforcing this, the growth of cases slowed by 0.9 percentage-points.

Near the beginning of the pandemic, wearing face masks was actually discouraged. This was because the number of Covid – 19 cases wasn’t enough for it to be worth it for the whole population to wear masks. But as things progressed, and coronavirus cases more than doubled, masks became a necessary part of daily life. But what do they really protect against? Do they protect the wearer, or the people around the wearer? Evidence suggests that it’s most likely the latter, but people who wear masks and don’t have the virus also receive a degree of protection from outside particles of Covid – 19. This means that masks protect everyone, even though people with the virus have the greatest need and responsibility to wear them.

Now, it’s commonly known that not everyone wears a mask. People claim that it’s hard to get used to, makes it difficult to breathe, and they neglect to wear one. Only 44% of adults say that they “always” wear a mask when going out, and that’s a huge problem. In a simulation, data revealed that it’s sufficient for 80% of the population to wear masks, although it would be ideal for everyone to wear them. But this is obviously not the case. And that’s not ok. Wearing a mask doesn’t help if only some people wear them; you need protection from both sides. And the pandemic will continue to rage, and cases won’t decrease if more than half the American population continues to look at masks as a joke – there is scientific evidence proving that masks are essential (like I already said) in mitigating Covid – 19’s consequences. It’s not worth risking the lives of you and the people around you, just to avoid wearing something uncomfortable. And if you want to protect yourself and your loved ones, always wear a mask.