A team of researchers in Texas and California compared Covid-19 infection rate trends in Italy and New York before and after face masks were made compulsory. According to the research published in the National Academy of Proceedings Book on Thursday, both settlements found that infection rates began to flatten only after mandatory face mask measures were taken.
The researchers calculated that wearing face masks prevented over 78,000 infections in Italy between April 6 and May 9, and over 66,000 infections in New York between April 17 and May 9.
They wrote “The wearing of face masks corresponds to the most effective means to prevent inter-human contamination, and this cheap application represents the most likely combat opportunity to stop the COVID-19 pandemic, with simultaneous social withdrawal, quarantine and contact tracking, before a vaccine is developed,” they wrote.
The researchers measured the effectiveness of different strategies to stop the spread of the infection and determine how the virus spread mainly. Viruses can spread through direct contact when a person coughs or sneezes another person; indirect contact when a person coughs or sneezes an object touched by another person; or through large droplets that quickly fall to the ground and small droplets called aerosols that can move for a few meters and hang in the air for a while.
To determine how the main infection method of the virus was, researchers analyzed trends in infection rates in three epicenters of the pandemic – Wuhan, China, Italy and New York City. They looked at the mitigation measures used in these places, such as extensive testing, quarantine, contact tracking, social distance, and mandatory use of face masks.
The researchers then compared the timing of when these measures were applied. In China, all measures were implemented simultaneously. In turn, mitigation measures were taken at different times in Italy and New York.
This allowed researchers to evaluate the relative effectiveness of the measures. They noticed that infection rates in Italy and NYC started to slow down only after their face masks were made mandatory, not after locking was applied in Italy, or after home orders came into effect in New York.
Regions in northern Italy began to require face masks on April 6, with mandatory use across the country on April 4. As of April 17, it was necessary to use a face mask in New York. The researchers calculated the number of infections prevented between these dates and May 9.
“Facial coating prevents contact transmission by blocking atomization, preventing airborne contamination, and inhalation of virus-bearing aerosols and viral spillage of droplets.” On the other hand, contact (direct and indirect) transmission in connection with social distancing, quarantine and isolation, hand disinfectant. “but does not protect against airborne contamination.”
The study noted that unlike China, the use of face masks in most of the Western world was not popular during the early outbreak of the pandemic. However, the researchers said the evidence showed that the masks were trying to spread slowly.
Researchers wrote that both the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphasized the prevention of contact transmission, but both organizations largely overlooked the importance of the airway delivery path.
“The current mitigation measures, such as social withdrawal, quarantine and isolation in the US, are inadequate in the protection of the public on their own,” the researchers said.
The team of five researchers is from Texas A&M University, University of Texas, University of California, San Diego and California Institute of Technology.
Italy has been under a nationwide lock-up since March 9, but Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said at a press conference Thursday evening that the country has facilitated coronavirus locking measures to continue behind professional sports events such as the Coppa Italia football game. Doors on Fridays.
Conte said other camps could be reopened as of June 25, including summer camps, kindergartens, betting rooms, and bingo halls, and announced that it has signed a decree that further facilitates locking measures. Non-professional sports involving physical contact can also continue.
CNN’s Livia Borghese contributed to this report.
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