Wearing masks, keeping social distancing and contact tracing have proved to be effective in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study by a team of US researchers. Only mitigation measures like social distancing are not sufficient by themselves in protecting the public from the pathogen, the researchers said.
The paper, which was written by researchers from Texas A&M University, the University of Texas at Austin, University of California and California Institute of Technology. was published in the peer-reviewed journal of the National Academy of Sciences in the US.
They compared the spread of novel coronavirus and preventative measures and found that in New York City and Italy, where mask-wearing became mandatory practice throughout the pandemic, there was a reduction in the number of infections.
From April 17 to May 9, there was a reduction of 66,000 infections in New York. In Italy, it was reduced by 78,000 from April 6 to May 9.
Mario Molina, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, who had shared the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1995, told The Star that imposing the usage of face masks properly is a potential way to control the pandemic.
The number of cases in New York City and Italy started to decrease on the exact day masks were made mandatory, as the curve which was going up started to bend, Molina said.
In addition to just isolation and social distancing, mandatory masks can decrease COVID-19 cases much more efficiently, he added.
The reason for this is that masks protect against inhaling droplets and virus-bearing aerosols which stay in the air for hours, the researchers add.
More than 200 doctors in Ontario have signed an open letter from Masks4Canada asking mandatory masks wherever it's impossible to practice physical distancing, such as public transit.
Premier Doug Ford said it was up to the municipalities to mandate masks. Dr. Nicola Mercer, medical officer of health for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, said there are signs of physical distancing fatigue and declining mask usage within businesses that remained open.
Trying for all the measures that can be taken to keep the population safe, while reopening the economy, was needed until there's a vaccine, Mercer said.
She pointed out that there is growing evidence of the impact of face coverings on the coronavirus pandemic in addition to measures such as physical distancing, hand hygiene, extensive testing and contact tracing.