A new study has revealed that the use of face masks reduced the number of COVID-19 cases by at least 144,000 in New York and Italy.
The study, one of the first to prove the effectiveness of face masks, was done by a team of researchers led by Renyi Zhang, a professor at the Texas A&M University.
Various countries had mandated the use of face coverings in public but only as a precautionary measure in slowing the spread of the coronavirus as there was no scientific proof of its effectiveness.
The new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that wearing the masks dramatically reduces a person’s chances of being infected by the virus.
The researchers compared the trends and mitigation procedures in some countries, and found that using a face mask reduced the number of infections by more than 78,000 in Italy from April 6 to May 9, and by over 66,000 in New York City from April 17 to May 9.
“This protective measure significantly reduces the number of infections. Other mitigation measures, such as social distancing implemented in the United States, are insufficient by themselves in protecting the public,” the researchers said.
“Face covering prevents both airborne transmission by blocking atomization and inhalation of virus-bearing aerosols and contact transmission by blocking viral shedding of droplets.
“On the other hand, social distancing, quarantine, and isolation, in conjunction with hand sanitizing, minimize contact (direct and indirect) transmission but do not protect against airborne transmission.
“With social distancing, quarantine, and isolation in place worldwide and in the United States since the beginning of April, airborne transmission represents the only viable route for spreading the disease, when mandated face covering is not implemented.”
The study further probed the response to the coronavirus in China, where the pandemic started, and found that the number of cases and deaths were effectively reduced as a result of extensive testing, quarantine, and contact tracing.
“Other aggressive measures implemented in China include lockdown of all cities and rural areas in the whole country, isolation of residents having close contact with infected people, and mandated wearing of face masks in public,” it added.