A study by a team of researchers led by a Texas A&M University professor found that not wearing a face mask dramatically increases a person’s chances of being infected by the COVID-19 virus.
Not wearing a face mask dramatically increases a person’s chances of being infected by the COVID-19 virus
Renyi Zhang, Texas A&M Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and the Harold J. Haynes Chair in the College of Geosciences, and colleagues from the University of Texas, the University of California-San Diego and the California Institute of Technology have had their work published in the current issue of PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).
The chances of COVID-19 infection and how easily the virus is passed from person to person examined
The team examined the chances of COVID-19 infection and how the virus is easily passed from person to person. From trends and mitigation procedures in China, Italy and New York City, the researchers found that using a face mask reduced the number of infections by more than 78,000 in Italy from April 6-May 9 and by over 66,000 in New York City from April 17-May 9.
Results show that airborne transmission via respiratory aerosols presents the dominant route for the spread of COVID-19
“Our results clearly show that airborne transmission via respiratory aerosols represents the dominant route for the spread of COVID-19,” Zhang said. “By analyzing the pandemic trends without face-covering using the statistical method and by projecting the trend, we calculated that over 66,000 infections were prevented by using a face mask in little over a month in New York City. We conclude that wearing a face mask in public corresponds to the most effective means to prevent inter-human transmission.
“This inexpensive practice, in conjunction with social distancing and other procedures, is the most likely opportunity to stop the COVID-19 pandemic. Our work also highlights that sound science is essential in decision-making for the current and future public health pandemics.”
One of the paper’s co-authors, Mario Molina, is a professor at the University of California-San Diego and a co-recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his role in understanding the threat to the Earth’s ozone layer of human-made halocarbon gases.
“Our study establishes very clearly that using a face mask is not only useful to prevent infected coughing droplets from reaching uninfected persons, but is also crucial for these uninfected persons to avoid breathing the minute atmospheric particles (aerosols) that infected people emit when talking and that can remain in the atmosphere tens of minutes and can travel tens of feet,” Molina said.
Many people in China have worn face masks for years, mainly because of the bad air quality of the country
Zhang said that many people in China have worn face masks for years, mainly because of the bad air quality of the country.
“So people there are sort of used to this,” he said. “Mandated face-covering helped China in containing the COVID-19 outbreak.”
Zhang said the results should send a clear message to people worldwide — wearing a face mask is essential in fighting the virus.
“Our work suggests that the failure in containing the propagation of COVID-19 pandemic worldwide is largely attributed to the unrecognized importance of airborne virus transmission,” he said. “Social-distancing and washing our hands must continue, but that’s not sufficient enough protection. Wearing a face mask as well as practicing good hand hygiene and social distancing will greatly reduce the chances of anyone contracting the COVID-19 virus.”
The study was funded by the Robert A. Welch Foundation.
1. Renyi Zhang, Yixin Li, Annie L. Zhang, Yuan Wang, Mario J. Molina. Identifying airborne transmission as the dominant route for the spread of COVID-19. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2020; 202009637 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2009637117
Razi Berry is the founder and publisher of the journal Naturopathic Doctor News & Review, which has been in print since 2005, and the premier consumer-faced website of naturopathic medicine, NaturalPath. She is the host of The Love is Medicine Project docuseries, The Natural Cancer Prevention Summit, The Heart Revolution-Heal, Empower and Follow Your Heart, and the popular 10-week Sugar Free Summer program. From a near death experience as a young girl that healed her failing heart, to later overcoming infertility and chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia through naturopathic medicine, Razi has lived the mind/body healing paradigm. Her projects uniquely capture the tradition and philosophy of naturopathy: The healing power of nature, the vital life force in every living thing and the undeniable role that science and mind/body medicine have in creating health and overcoming dis-ease. You can follow Razi on social media: Facebook at Razi Berry, Instagram at Razi.Berry and join the Love is Medicine group to explore the convergence of love and health. Look for more, and listen to more Love is Medicine podcast episodes here.