You Need to Stop Believing This Common Mask Myth, Study Says
If you think that wearing a mask is increasing your risk of contracting the virus, think again.
Wearing a mask has been shown to help stem the spread of coronavirus by reducing the amount of potentially-infected respiratory droplets introduced into any given area. Research suggests that wearing a mask can even reduce your risk of contracting coronavirus by as much as 65 percent. The only problem? Some people worry that masks could cause the people who wear them to take a less stringent approach to other coronavirus mitigation strategies. In fact, on June 5, the World Health Organization (WHO) released guidance suggesting that wearing a mask could lead to a false sense of security in some people, making them less likely to practice social distancing or adequate hand hygiene.
Here's some good news: An analysis of research published in the BMJ on July 26 reveals that wearing a mask isn't actually emboldening most people to forgo other protective measures. Researchers reviewed six studies that evaluated the efficacy of mask-wearing on viral transmission, as well as adherence to hand hygiene practices. In all six studies that examined both variables, people who wore masks were no less likely to adequately wash their hands than those who didn't wear masks. In two studies, people who wore masks said they actually washed their hands more frequently.
The BMJ study's authors noted that concerns about people not taking adequate precautions against viral transmission aside from mask wearing pose "the greater threat to public health through delaying potentially effective interventions."
So, what are the best ways to limit coronavirus transmission in conjunction with mask use? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends practicing social distancing—i.e., maintaining at least six feet of distance between you and any people you don't live with in both indoor and outdoor settings. In terms of hand hygiene, the CDC suggests washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds per rinse, including before and after touching public surfaces, before and after touching your face, before and after preparing or eating food, and after coughing or sneezing. And for more expert-backed ways to protect yourself, check out these 50 Essential COVID Safety Tips the CDC Wants You to Know.