BYU group looks to clear confusion on face masks with new research

Coronavirus Updates

PROVO, Utah (ABC4 News) – A group of researchers from Brigham Young University is hoping that their research on the effectiveness of wearing face masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic will help people understand why face masks are being emphasized during this time.

The research group from the university saw that there was public confusion and conflicting guidance about what measures can effectively protect people from the virus. So, in an effort to explain recent studies in plain-language, the group read more than 115 scientific studies on COVID-19. Then the BYU group came together and created a summary of their findings from the 115 studies they read.

Their overall finding? There is convincing evidence from multiple experiments that wearing masks reduces the transmission of COVID-19 for healthcare workers and the public. Most of the evidence is COVID-19-specific and has emerged in the past few months.

The group determined from the studies that masks prevented infected people from spreading the virus to others by trapping the respiratory droplets that are produced when we cough, speak, and breathe. If was found that a simple cloth mask can stop 90 percent or more of the dispersal of droplets carrying the virus.

Though there is some evidence that cloth masks also protect the wearer from infection, this is less certain than the evidence that masks protect others around you.

While many in the public have claimed masks to be unsafe for the wearer, the BYU group determined that masks are ‘highly safe’. Masks have been proven safe in children, adults, and elderly groups where mask-wearing has long been common. There is no evidence that masks cause low oxygen or high carbon dioxide.

Groups of people who should not wear masks though are those with compromised respiratory systems and people who cannot remove their own mask such as children younger than 2 years old and people with severe disabilities.

The BYU group who studied the 115 different studies said that while research has concluded that masks could be one of the most powerful and cost-effective tools to stop the spread of the coronavirus, masking is most effective when paired with physical distancing, frequent hand-washing, rapid testing, and coordinated contact tracing.

The research group further addresses the why of masks. They found that people infected with COVID-19 are most contagious during the day before their first symptoms and and in a few days after onset. This means that before you begin feeling sick from the virus, you could already be spreading it to others. The studies also found that it is estimated that half of all transmissions occur from individuals not showing any symptoms at all.

Researchers also point out that masks have long been recommended for those with respiratory infections. Why? Because there is clear evidence that a face-covering reduces the spray of droplets produced during speaking, coughing, and sneezing.

While the group from BYU did their best at accurately reflecting the scientific evidence in the 115 studies they read, they hope that their summary is helpful for families in deciding for yourself what is best while facing this threat in our society.

To read the complete summary of the studies head to pws.byu.edu.

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