The World Health Organization (WHO) has long held that the coronavirus is spread primarily by large respiratory droplets that, once expelled by infected people in coughs and sneezes, fall quickly to the floor.
But in an open letter to WHO, 239 scientists in 32 countries are outlining the evidence showing that you can be infected by smaller particles. The researchers are asking the agency to revise its recommendations and are planning to publish their letter in a scientific journal next week.
They also argue that the science is clear: Wearing masks helps reduce the spread of the virus. If at least 80% of the population wears masks consistently, it will significantly slow transmission.
Many people argue that cloth masks can’t be effective because they can’t filter out viral particles, which are extremely tiny. But most of these particles leave your mouth and nose in much larger droplets. They become smaller through evaporation as they move away from your body. Trapping droplets in your mask means not nearly as many viral particles escape.
So, when all parties in a gathering are wearing well-constructed, well-fitting masks, it provides an extra layer of safety for everyone. If two people are wearing masks, the viral particles can travel about 5 feet away from each individual. When an infected person is not wearing a mask, those particles can float through the air 30 feet or more and stay alive for up to 30 hours. More and more studies are proving that.
The most recent guidelines from the World Health Organization recommend that everyone who comes in close contact with others in crowded or close quarters, such as on a bus or in a store, wear a cloth mask composed of at least three different layers of material.
People 60 or older, or those with underlying health conditions, should wear medical masks, such as surgical masks, in public, and physicians and healthcare providers should wear medical masks in all areas of a hospital, even if the area in which they are working has no COVID-19 patients, according to the organization.
The new guidelines were devised after WHO researchers reviewed information from researchers at Stanford University.
A study published last month in the journal “Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences” found “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."
In the end, whether the coronavirus is airborne or not, your best defense is a mask. All North Ohio Heart/Ohio Medical Group providers will wear a mask while caring for you. That’s in addition to the other precautions we are taking. For the safety of all, patients are also required to wear a mask or cloth face covering when they come to the office. Please make every effort to comply with this important safety measure.
If you’re not sure what type of mask would be best for you, talk to your doctor. Or if you’re uncomfortable coming into the office, you can speak to your doctor about coronavirus masks during a telehealth visit from the comfort of your own home.