Do face masks really help slow the spread of COVID-19?

Question Answered by Tamara Cox, Registered Nurse

Here’s the deal. They can do quite a bit to protect people from “your” germs, but social distancing is still the best and first defense. So, definitely wear them! Wear them for your friends and neighbors. Wear them for the sweet senior citizen down the street and your cousin with cancer. And even when that mask is on, make sure you stay six feet away from anyone outside your household.

A recent study published in Health Affairs, for example, compared the COVID-19 growth rate before and after mask mandates in 15 states and the District of Columbia. It found that mask mandates led to a slowdown in daily COVID-19 growth rate, which became more apparent over time. The first five days after a mandate, the daily growth rate slowed by 0.9 percentage-points compared to the five days prior to the mandate; at three weeks, the daily growth rate had slowed by 2 percentage-points.


Here’s the latest research on both masks and lockdown measures during COVID-19:

What do face masks do?
Masks, or facial coverings, are mainly to prevent the person wearing the mask from generating droplets from breathing, coughing, sneezing, etc. It is these droplets that can carry a virus from one person to another.

“We are not defenseless against COVID-19. Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.”

CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield

Need to make a face mask? No sewing machine? No worries, with these simple to follow instructions you can make a mask.

You will need: bandana (or square cotton cloth approximately 20”x20”), rubber bands or hair ties

Tips for Wearing a Face Mask Safely

  • Always wash you hands before and after wearing a mask.
  • Use the ties or loops to put your mask on and pull it off.
  • Don’t touch the front of the mask, especially when you take it off.
  • Cover your mouth, nose and chin.
  • Wash and dry your cloth mask daily and keep it in a clean, dry place.
  • Remember that masks work best in combination with hand washing and physical distancing.

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