Story at a glance

  • Two UC Davis Health experts said a range of new research on face coverings shows the risk of coronavirus infection can be reduced by 65 percent for the person wearing the mask.
  • Researchers said wearing masks is important in stopping the transmission of the virus, as about 30 percent of infections are caused by people who are asymptomatic and unaware they have COVID-19.
  • The CDC recommends the use of masks or cloth facial coverings when it is not possible to stay at least 6 feet away from others.

New research suggests wearing a mask may not only limit the possibility of passing the coronavirus to others, but may also significantly protect the wearer. 

Two UC Davis Health experts said a range of new research on face coverings shows the risk of coronavirus infection can be reduced by 65 percent for the person wearing the mask. 


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“Initially we did not think that wearing a mask would prevent transmission, and then we shifted and said wearing a mask helps prevent transmission from the person wearing the mask to others,” Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children’s Hospital, said during a livestream discussion.

“Now we’ve learned more due to research and additional scientific evidence,” Blumberg said. “Wearing the mask protects the person wearing it.”


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“So the wearer of the mask, even the standard rectangular surgical masks...will decrease the risk of infection by the person wearing the mask by about 65 percent,” he added. 

Blumberg and William Ristenpart, a professor of chemical engineering at UC Davis, discussed the two primary methods of transmission. 

The first is through respiratory droplets a carrier emits when they cough or sneeze. The researchers said the masks create an effective barrier against those types of droplets. 

“Everyone should wear a mask,” Blumberg said. “People who say, ‘I don’t believe masks work,’ are ignoring scientific evidence. It’s not a belief system. It’s like saying, ‘I don’t believe in gravity.’”

The virus can also be transmitted through aerosol particles that are released when people talk, which are about 1/100th the size of a human hair. 

The researchers say it is much more difficult to protect yourself against the aerosol particles as they could sneak through gaps in cloth masks. They recommend social distancing and staying outdoors. 

“Studies in laboratory conditions now show the virus stays alive in aerosol form with a half-life on the scale of hours. It persists in the air,” Ristenpart said. “That’s why you want to be outdoors for any social situations if possible. The good air flow will disperse the virus. If you are indoors, think about opening the windows. You want as much fresh air as possible.”

The researchers said wearing masks is important in stopping the transmission of the virus, as about 30 percent of infections are caused by people who are asymptomatic and unaware they have COVID-19. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the use of masks or cloth facial coverings when it is not possible to stay at least 6 feet away from others to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. A number of states have mandated residents wear masks in public spaces when they are unable to social distance.

Published on Jul 09, 2020