Q&A of the Day – How useful are masks in combating COVID-19?

Q&A of the Day – How useful are masks in combating COVID-19?

Each day I’ll feature a listener question that’s been submitted by one of these methods. 

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Twitter: @brianmuddradio

Facebook: Brian Mudd https://www.facebook.com/brian.mudd1

Today’s entry: One observation: Citizens in China have worn masks for decades because of the smog….am I correct? So...didn’t keep them from getting the virus did it!?

Bottom Line: Actually, there’s a good chance it has had a profound impact throughout Asia. More questions are popping up about masks in South Florida as local governments have issued orders to wear them if you leave home. Picking up on your point about China... It’s hard to know exactly what’s real and what isn’t in China specifically. US intelligence has revealed China to be dishonest in the reporting of cases right along – starting with an apparent cover up of the outbreak of last fall. Still, looking around the rest of Asia where masks are common, demonstrates an instructive story about the effectiveness of masks in combating COVID-19. Countries in which wearing masks are common to everyday life include:

  • China
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan

Looking at the number of cases of COVID-19 deaths adjusted for population in these Asian countries tells a compelling story about the probability of masks making a significant difference. Here are the number of deaths per one million in population attributed to COVID-19 (from countries who are honestly testing and reporting):

  • Hong Kong: 0.5
  • Japan: 0.9
  • South Korea: 4
  • Taiwan: 0.3

Only South Korea is even averaging one death per million in population and South Korea has the high-watermark in the region at four. How does that compare to the Canadian and American cultures where wearing masks aren’t part of our culture?

  • Canada: 17
  • United States: 62

There’s no comparison. Could there be alternate explanations, like potential previous exposure to the virus leading to some form of immunity for Asians? Maybe, but the masks are the most straight-forward difference and explanation. A study of SARS conducted over the course of two years and published in the International Journal of Infectious Disease revealed the use of masks reduced the risk of spreading and contracting the virus by at least 80%. The study combined with real world results we’re seeing right now show with near certainty, that masks are substantially beneficial to reducing the spread of COVID-19 or any other virus. Whether you live in a South Florida county that’s mandating masks or not, wearing one in public is a good idea with lots of data to back up the benefits. 

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