As the rate of COVID-19 vaccinations grows across the globe, we’re finally seeing some light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. But we’re far from home yet. Now is not the time to throw away your face masks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has long said wearing any face mask reduces the risk of transmitting COVID-19. The agency now urges people to wear a tightly fitted three-ply surgical mask or a surgical mask in combination with a second cloth mask. Their tests have shown this can reduce virus transmission by a whopping 96%. That’s in a scenario where both an infected individual and a non-infected person are each following that recommendation.
If wearing two masks is not an option, knotting and tucking a surgical mask can also enhance protection by making a tighter fit to the face. Knot the elastic ear loops where they attach to the mask, then fold any extra fabric and tuck it in for an even tighter seal.
The agency also says a mask fitter is a good idea. That’s a frame worn outside the mask that holds the fabric down against the face to prevent air leakage.
The CDC notes its research was done in controlled laboratory conditions, and how all of this works in the real world is a little less clear. But scientists are confident that following these steps adds considerable protection.
For more than a year, millions of people around the world have worn masks to prevent transmission of the coronavirus. These and other essential steps, like consistent hand-washing and social distancing, have gotten us close to the end of the pandemic. If we all work together, there will be better days ahead.