The implementation of a nationwide mask mandate, combined with complementary public health measures, could reduce the spread of the coronavirus to practically zero and have a potential impact of $ 1 trillion on U.S. GDP, according to researchers at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
The team’s research “clearly shows that even as vaccines are developed and new variants, like B.1.7.7, are discovered, the power to protect us remains in our hands, as individuals,” he said. said co-author Anne Rimoin, UCLA. Fielding School professor of epidemiology.
“Wearing a mask is one of the easiest, most effective, and cheapest ways to do just that – and this has been proven by the history of epidemiology over the past century, dating back to the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 and even before, ”she told me.
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“Reducing the spread of the disease requires two things: limiting the contact of infected people through physical distance and other measures and reducing the likelihood of transmission by contact,” said co-author Christina Ramirez, professor of biostatistics at the Fielding School. “The preponderance of evidence indicates that wearing a mask reduces contact transmissibility by reducing the transmission of infected respiratory particles in laboratory and clinical settings.”
The findings – published in the January edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed journal – were the work of an international team of 19 UCLA scholars and more than a dozen other universities and research centers, including the University of Oxford. , the University of Cape Town, the University of Peking, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of San Francisco.
R0, pronounced “R nothing”, is a mathematical term that indicates how contagious an infectious disease is. It is also called the reproduction number. When an infection spreads to new people, it reproduces itself. Reducing reproduction to zero, in turn, could add $ 1 trillion to U.S. GDP, the authors said.
“When used in conjunction with widespread testing, contact tracing, quarantining anyone who may be infected, hand washing, and physical distancing, face masks are an invaluable tool in reducing the risk of infection. community transmission, ”Rimoin said. “All of these measures, through their effect on R0, have the potential to reduce the number of infections. As governments emerge from lockdowns, it will be essential to keep transmissions low enough to preserve health care capacity until vaccines can be developed and widely provided.
To arrive at their conclusions, the team examined a wide range of new and existing studies and research, including work dating back to a plague outbreak in 1910 in northeast China. Even then, according to the researchers, plague scientists recognized that the cloth mask was “the primary means of personal protection.”
There is also plenty of evidence for the current pandemic, said Jeremy Howard, study co-author, researcher at the University of San Francisco.
“At the end of June 2020, nearly 90% of the world’s population lived in areas where mask use was almost universal or which had laws requiring the use of masks in certain public places, and the use of community masks was recommended by almost all major public health agencies, ”Howard says. “This is a dramatic change from the early days of the pandemic, when masks were rarely recommended or used.”
The researchers came to various conclusions, including:
-the masks were 79% effective in preventing transmission, if used by all household members before symptoms appeared;
-the use of masks was highly protective, with a risk reduction of 70% for those who always wore a mask when going out;
– transmission was 7.5 times higher in countries which did not have a mask mandate;
-the difference between US states with masked mandates and those without one found the daily growth rate to be 2 percentage points lower in states with masked mandates, estimating that the mandates avoided 230,000 450,000 cases of COVID-19 as of May 22;
– face masks have a significant reducing effect on infections and deaths, with a potential impact on US GDP of $ 1 trillion if a nationwide mask mandate is implemented; and
-the marginal benefit per cloth mask worn is between $ 3,000 and $ 6,000.
City News Service contributed to this report.