A recent Stanford University study reveals that wearing a surgical mask is truly effective in limiting the spread of COVID-19.
Stanford researchers studied 600 villages in Bangladesh, where masking was low. They gave half of the village’s free masks, information and reminders to wear them and nothing to the other half.
In the villages wearing masks, symptomatic COVID-19 cases were 9% lower than villages that did not wear them.
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For the most vulnerable population, ages 60 and above, it was 35% lower.
Ashley Styczynski was one of the lead authors of the study and is an infectious disease fellow at Stanford.
“So, it’s not just about an individual wearing a mask to protect himself or herself. It's about an individual wearing a mask to keep the community safe and I think that’s what was demonstrated in this study,” she said.
It’s believed to be the first large scale randomized study on the effectiveness of masks in a real world setting.
Although doctors said any protection helps, researchers found surgical masks worked much better than cloth ones.
“What we found is a strong effect from surgical masks. Now, we can say that a greater level of masks leads to a greater level of protection,” Styczynski added.
The team of doctors showed giving masks away with encouragement from community leaders in countries struggling to get vaccinations slows the spread.
As for the more densely populated Bay Area?
“We would expect, if anything, that the impacts of masks in the Bay Area might be greater at this time than what we measured in our study,” Styczynski said.