SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – In Utah’s weekly coronavirus press conference, Governor Gary Herbert invited a new face to take part in the briefing. Professor Ben Abbott of Brigham Young University spoke on the importance of face coverings in public and their effectiveness in slowing the spread of COVID-19.

The invitation to talk about masks during Thursday’s press conference comes after Abbott and his research group at BYU released a summary of their findings concerning more than 130 scientific studies from around the world concerning masks and COVID-19.

The group’s findings? 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.

During the press conference, Abbott further expounded to the state of Utah why masks are effective. Abbott explained that when wearing masks respiratory droplets spread less than if you were not wearing a mask therefore helping slow the spread of COVID-19. He even compared southeast Asian countries and their long-time use of masks and their effectiveness with transmission rates.

“Countries that had a mask culture to begin with, so many counties in southeast Asia for example, have already used masks to slow the spread of disease, they had much lower transmission rate and substantially lower mortality rates,” said Abbott. “When masks are used, the disease is actually less deadly even if you catch it…When masks are used, the mortality rate goes down.”

Abbott acknowledged that there has been confusion around mask-wearing due to old data concerning past widespread diseases but points out that the data concerning masks and COVID-19 is “now abundantly clear that masks are an essential tool at slowing the spread of COVID-19.”

There have been some people claiming that masks are dangerous to wear but Abbott clears up that theory by saying that he and his team’s conclusions were unanimous: masks are completely safe to wear for healthy individuals.

Abbott’s last plea to Utahns on behalf of the governor was to simply wear a mask when you are around others because doing so could be “our bridge back to normal.”

“Will masks solve COVID-19? Researchers from hospitals, universities, agencies and the private sector have all come to the same conclusion based on this overwhelming evidence: That masks are a very powerful tool that can reduce the spread of COVID-19 and when used in combination with other measures, it could really get this outbreak under control.”

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