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Are Masks Really Working Against The Spread Of Viruses?

Are masks effective against the spread of COVID-19?

In the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic, many people believed that wearing masks did not work due to the lack of scientific evidence. Experts continue to echo that masks do not slow the spread of COVID-19 as different strains have emerged.

In 2020, CNN reported that the World Health Organization found a lack of evidence that masks were effective. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended well-fitting masks to help combat COVID-19

At the time, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization health emergencies program, said there was “no specific evidence to suggest that the wearing of masks by the mass population has any potential benefit. In fact, there’s some evidence to suggest the opposite in misusing wearing a mask properly or fitting it properly.”

In February 2022, the CDC published a study that found that consistent mask-wearing in public settings reduces the risk of COVID between 56% and 83%, depending on how they’re worn and the efficacy of cloth masks. Though the data determined that any mask is better, cloth masks have the lowest efficacy.

During the last two weeks, cases of the COVID-19 variant, Omicron BA.2.86, also known as Pirola, have tripled in two weeks, comprising between 5% and 15% of all infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among the regions with adequate samples reported from testing laboratories, BA. 2.86’s prevalence is the largest in the Northeast, with 13.1% of cases in the New York and New Jersey region. 

In recent weeks, scientists have analyzed a sharp increase in a BA.2.86 descendant called JN.1, which quickly became the fastest-growing sub-variant worldwide. Many cases have been reported in Europe, which has witnessed increasing cases from BA.2.86 and its descendants. 

British physician Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, told the Daily Mail that it is challenging to prove the efficiency of the masks from other COVID strains. For instance, she called out the government’s advice in 2020 on “how to make a mask using two pieces of cloth” for being “ineffective.” She noted previous research that supports that at least three pieces of cloth had a minor effect on spreading viruses.

“What was being conceived was if you wear a face covering and reduce everything to a meter, the face covering will make up for the difference, and the answer was no, it won’t, and it definitely won’t if it’s ever not evidence-based,” Harries explained.

She added: “The anxiety was that if people just thought they could get a bit of T-shirt, put it around the face, and that would solve all the problems, and we could go back to normal, that was not going to be a good public health intervention.”

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