As we collectively deal with the COVID-19 pandemic surge, I'd like to bring your attention to a new scientific brief announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding the use of masks.
In general, the consensus has been that masks protect others, but do not necessarily protect the wearer, which may have contributed significantly to the resistance of mask-wearing, a measure critical to controlling the pandemic. The scientific brief from the CDC, released on Nov. 10, looked at available information to evaluate mask efficacy and concluded that masking not only protects others, but likely protects the wearer from infection as well.
Reductions in transmission, mortality
Masks are primarily intended to reduce the spread of virus droplets from the individual who may be ill or have the virus and is asymptomatic. Cloth masks effectively block large droplets, but they have also been found to block the exhalation of small droplets and particles. In experiments, upwards of 80% blockage has been achieved with even multilayered cloth masks, which is on par with surgical masks. Studies show that multiple layers of cloth with higher thread counts have better performance than single-layer cloth with low thread counts.
The CDC also points to data on the real-world effectiveness of community masking, including a study of 124 households with confirmed cases of COVID-19 where the mask use by the patient and family contacts before the patient developed symptoms reduced transmission by almost 79%. Investigations involving infected passengers on flights longer than 10 hours also suggest that masking prevented in-flight transmissions after none of other passengers or crew in the 14 days following exposure had been infected. Furthermore, studies have demonstrated reductions in mortality with universal masking.
Something we all can do
This brief from the CDC strongly promotes the absolute need for masking, especially right now, when transmission in the community is increasing, and we're seeing an increasing number of patients coming into our health system. For more guidance on mask wearing, please watch and share this video featuring John Segreti, MD, hospital epidemiologist and medical director of Infection Control and Prevention.
Please promote the use of masking not only at work but also in your day-to-day lives. During this time of uncertainty, this is something we all can do to help control this pandemic. Thank you again for all that you are doing and sacrificing during the pandemic and this recent surge.
Ranga Krishnan, MB ChB
CEO, Rush University System for Health