Even though Governor Murphy announced New Jersey can begin moving into Stage 2 of its COVID-19 restrictions, you still need to wear your face covering. A study funded by the World Health Organization on physical distancing, face masks and eye protection published in The Lancet on Monday found that face masks greatly reduce transmission rates.
The first of its kind, the study analyzed 172 other studies from 16 countries and took a look at the measures used to slow the transmission of this pandemic and other coronaviruses like SARS and MERS.
Without a mask or social distancing measures, the risk of COVID-19 transmission is 17.4 percent; with a mask, the risk decreases to 3.1 percent. If you’re not sure when you should be wearing a mask, we made a guide. You can also make your own face masks, or purchase masks for yourself and your kids.
In addition, physical distance between you and others is an important part of keeping healthy. According to the study, with less than a meter of distance and with no protective measures, the risk of transmitting COVID-19 is 12.8 percent. With more than one meter of distance, it decreases to 2.6 percent.
If you’re tired of wearing your mask, you’re not the only one. Mask fatigue is a real problem, but since many COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic, the purpose of wearing a mask is actually to protect others from you, and not the other way around. When we talk, especially indoors where there’s less air movement, we emit fluid droplets that could potentially infect someone else. The New England Journal of Medicine found that people emit around 2,600 small droplets of fluid every second they speak, and a study published in Nature found that an infected person could contain 7 million viruses per milliliter.
The Lancet study notes, “for the currently foreseeable future (ie, until a safe and effective vaccine or treatment becomes available), COVID-19 prevention will continue to rely on non-pharmaceutical interventions, including pandemic mitigation in community settings.” This means using social distancing and protective items like face masks and frequent hand washing are currently the biggest tools our communities have to fight the virus.