One Major Upside of Wearing a Face Mask You Didn't Know

Those who get COVID-19 but wear a mask will experience a milder case of COVID-19, says new study.

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By now you know the benefits of wearing a mask as an effective way to protect yourself and those around you from the COVID-19 coronavirus. But a new medical study suggests that wearing a mask has at least one more benefit you probably weren't aware of: Even if covering your face doesn't keep you from contracting COVID-19, it could still save your life—because wearing a mask can significantly lessen your symptoms and "reduce the severity of the disease."

This is according to researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, who published a new study yesterday in The New England Journal of Medicine. The study was led and co-authored by Monica Gandhi, M.D., M.P.H., and George W. Rutherford, M.D.

The study notes how COVID-19 is rather harmless in some people while deadly in others, with cases "ranging from a complete lack of symptoms to pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and death." It goes on to argue that "facial masking may also reduce the severity of disease among people who do become infected," and that "the severity of disease is proportionate to the viral inoculum received."

In other words: the less COVID-19 particles one inhales, the less sick the person becomes. So even if you do contract the virus while wearing a mask, you will likely feel less symptoms.

According to Gandhi, the finding has profound implications not only for individual mask-wearers but also for our larger fight against the coronavirus as a population. If everyone wears a mask, she argues, those who get sick will get less sick, and if the people who contract the virus are less sick then we'll ultimately have fewer deaths from COVID-19.

"What we're trying to discuss and put forth is the possibility that we can drive up immunity to COVID-19 safely," Dr. Gandhi explained in an interview with Salon. "The strange part about this virus is that many, many people don't even know they have it. They're totally healthy, well, and asymptomatic. That population can be disturbing because they can spread the virus, which is why we recommend masking. We're interested in driving up the proportion of people who get less sick. Why not make people less sick? We are arguing that … population-wide masking will sort of trigger immunity in the population, and bridge us to a vaccine," she says. And for more on the health benefits of wearing face masks, make sure you're aware of The One Face Covering That's Worse Than Wearing No Mask at All.

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