Social Distancing, Masks, and Eye Protection Are Effective in Reducing Spread of Coronavirus, Study Confirms

Social Distancing, Masks, and Eye Protection Are Effective in Reducing Spread of Coronavirus, Study Confirms

Since many businesses and offices intend to reopen soon, maintaining this protective measure can help people as it reduces the risk of the spread.

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Wearing masks and washing your hands umpteen times a day to sanitize them have become the norm ever since the pandemic hit the world. While many people have been opposing wearing masks or maintaining social distancing, these two measures and wearing eye protection have been confirmed to make a difference in flattening the curve. This information is crucial as many businesses and offices are set to reopen in the US. People will still be at risk of getting infected as the spread of the virus is ongoing and will need to be more careful when they step out.


Researchers in Canada and Lebanon have reviewed 172 studies from 16 different countries about the different measures that helped decrease the spread of the virus that has become a global pandemic as well as SARS and MERS. They published their findings in the medical journal Lancet.


Study co-author Dr. Derek Chu, a clinical scholar of medicine at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, told TODAY, that even though some Americans have expressed that they don't want to wear a mask, it's one of the best ways to stop the spread.


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"Even though people have made conjectures about, ‘Should we wear a mask?’ ... the problem has been that uncertainty," he said. "CDC is saying wear a mask, but other people have countered that very rapidly, saying, ‘It's more harmful than good.'" He added that their review replaces "anecdotes" with evidence-based "clarity."


The study looked at three measures - social distancing, wearing a mask, and wearing eye protection - and its efficacy. "The findings showed a reduction in risk of 82% with a physical distance of 1 m (3.3 feet) in both health-care and community settings," the study said. "Every additional 1 m (3.3 feet) of separation more than doubled the relative protection," it added. This information is crucial as many countries seek to lift their lockdowns and restart the economy.


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A distance of more than 3.3 feet reduces the chance of transmission to 2.6% while the distance of six feet recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is likely even more effective, they found.

Wearing masks and respirators reduced the risk of infection by 85%, especially for those in the healthcare setting, as there is the predominant use of N95 respirators in health-care environments. Further analysis found that respirators were 96% effective compared with other masks, which were 67% effective. Paper surgical masks were 77% effective.


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They also added that it was recommended that respirators and multilayer masks are more protective than single layer masks. This is important since many people are using home-made cloth masks, many of which are single-layered. Ideally, 12-16 layered cotton or gauze masks are to be used. "A well-designed cloth mask should have water-resistant fabric, multiple layers, and good facial fit," the study said. The researchers also found that eye protection like eye shields and goggles resulted in a 78% reduction in infection.


"For health-care workers on COVID-19 wards, a respirator [N95 mask] should be the minimum standard of care," an accompanying editorial in Lancet on the study said. "This study by Chu and colleagues should prompt a review of all guidelines that recommend a medical mask for health workers caring for COVID-19 patients." They added that risking healthcare workers due to lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) or availability of suboptimal ones is an "unacceptable risk." For instance, in the National Health Service trusts in the UK, as many as one in five health workers have been infected and for this, the government should take responsibility by scaling up the production of PPE.

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The study further added that wearing masks is crucial for those in a health care setting and in other settings. "Universal face mask use might enable safe lifting of restrictions in communities seeking to resume normal activities and could protect people in crowded public settings and within households," they said in the editorial.






As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, WomenWorking is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest updates, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments.

Disclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.