A huge new study finds masks the most effective public health measure to fight COVID-19

Analysis of studies around the world has revealed that wearing a mask, hand washing and social distancing are some of the most effective ways to prevent capturing COVID-19 and spreading the disease.

The BMJ, a global health care publisher, published a mass review Thursday, which analyzed 72 studies from around the world to assess how nonpharmaceutical health initiatives reduced cases of COVID-19. Researchers found resources such as hand washing, wearing masks and physical distance significantly reduced the chances of COVID-19.

Researchers have supported vaccines and agreed that they have been shown to be safe and effective and can save lives. However, most vaccines do not give people 100 percent protection and it is not known how vaccines will prevent future spread of COVID-19, due to the growing trend of variants such as delta.

There is also herd immunity to consider as the threshold for achieving it varies greatly depending on the country and its population response to vaccines, types of vaccines available, and which population groups are prioritized to receive a vaccine, among other factors.

But public health prevention strategies have also proven useful in fighting respiratory infections. Researchers found that wearing a mask could reduce COVID-19 incidence by 53 percent.


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According to the study, one experiment across 200 countries showed 45.7 percent fewer deaths related to COVID-19 in countries where wearing a mask was mandatory. In the United States, one study reported a 29 percent reduction in COVID-19 transmission in states where mask wearing was required.

Social distancing has also been shown to be effective, and researchers found that analysis from five different studies indicated a 25 percent reduction in incidence of COVID-19.

Handwashing was found to be another crucial preventative measure, with researchers finding that there was an estimated 53 percent reduction in COVID-19 incidence. Although researchers said that was large, their final analysis found that it is not statistically significant.

Researchers also found that blocking and closing down businesses and schools was largely effective in containing COVID-19, but relied on early implementation when COVID-19 rates were still low.

“When implementing public health measures, it is important to consider specific health and sociocultural needs of the communities and weigh the potential negative effects of the public health measures against the positive effects for general populations,” researchers wrote.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of November 17, there were more than 47 million total cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 700,000 deaths. Despite the alarming numbers and investigations supporting the wearing of masks, many states across the country have adopted policies against mass commanders, such as in Florida, where Republican Governor Ron DeSantis (R) signed executive order prohibiting counties or municipalities from implementing such requirements.

According to AARP, only six states currently require most people to wear masks indoors in public places, whether or not they have been vaccinated against COVID-19, while 11 states have never imposed any mass command at any time during the pandemic.


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