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Masking in 2021

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Kristin Davis

Recent controversies over new mask mandates, combined with increased treatments, vaccination distribution efforts and improved scientific research for covid-19 have many wondering, how much longer will we have to wear masks? 

Although it is clear that for the majority of this year most people will likely continue to feel the social disruptions of Covid-19, this new sense of “normal” seems to persistently inspire controversial tension. However, as much as masks can prove annoying or inconvenient at times, we should find comfort in the fact that we are doing everything possible to keep ourselves as well as others around us both safe and healthy.

That is why today, we are talking about the use of medical masks. Specifically, we’ll be discussing the history of masks as a means of disease prevention, their effectiveness according to statistical data and how much longer experts believe there will be a need for them.

Historical Overview

When thinking of the history of masks one of the first pictures that comes to mind is that of the doctors from the Black Plague era. Although these bizarre-looking masks were certainly heavily used, it actually had nothing to do with stopping the spread of germs. In early modern Europe, face and mouth coverings were meant to hold spices and perfumes to neutralize the ‘miasma’ or bad smells in the air - which they believed to be the cause of sickness.

It wasn’t until the 1860’s (shortly after the discovery of microorganisms) that germs were considered to be possible causes of disease and illness. By the 1890’s, doctors and surgeons began wearing face masks as well as various other protective coverings to help prevent the spread of germs to patients during care, specifically around open wounds or when performing surgeries. 

Even then, it wasn’t until the Manchurian Plague of 1910 and the following Influenza Pandemic of 1918 that face masks were used by the public to help protect against airborne disease. This goes to show that large-scale masking is still a fairly new concept. Thankfully, modern science and medicine have provided us with tangible data on the effectiveness of preventative mask use.

Data Measured Effectiveness 

An experiment that was recently released by the New England Journal of Medicine tested the amount of particles emitted by a person speaking both with and without a face covering. The recording with a face covering showed that nearly all droplets produced by speaking alone were blocked. You can click here to watch the video and review the full experiment.

Another case study took place in Missouri that analyzed Covid-19 transmission rates between two hairdressers and their 140 clients. However, with no symptomatic secondary cases, the results showcased the legitimacy of wearing masks when interacting with others.

Although these are just two quick examples, there are many other bodies of research on this subject that we encourage all readers to explore. All in all, most of the evidence seems to indicate that masks can be helpful methods of protection from Covid-19 and other harmful diseases. 

Even so, it is still important to note that most experts do not claim the use of masks to be the end-all-be-all way of stopping the spread. To increase protection, it is important to keep washing your hands and maintaining social distance of at least 6 feet apart. For even more information on masks as well as other safety measures you can take, click here.

Experts Take | How Much Longer Will We Need Masks?

Finally, as we begin seeing more and more vaccinations and treatments take place, many people are left wondering exactly how much longer we will need to wear masks. According to an article from Today.com, experts agreed that most likely masks will still be in use for at least another year. This is due to three main reasons: 

  1. It will take time to get the vaccine properly dispersed in order to achieve herd immunity.
  2. The vaccine itself will take time to be effective (i.e. for our bodies to build up the necessary amount of antibodies). 
  3. We are still learning to what extent vaccinated persons can spread the virus.

What’s more is that many experts believe that masking may be a new cultural norm beyond the pandemic. Needless to say, we were all prepared for Covid-19 to change the world and change the world it did. 2021 may not be a welcome back to what the world looked like before 2020, but together we can take the lessons learned from this last year and do our part to create a safer, healthier and happier year ahead for everyone.


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