Simulation Shows How Many Lives Can Be Saved By Wearing Masks

Simulation Shows How Many Lives Can Be Saved By Wearing Masks
Simulation Shows How Many Lives Can Be Saved By Wearing Masks

The authors of the new study, using the example of the United States, showed what the widespread rejection of wearing masks can lead to during the coronavirus pandemic.

Wearing masks
Wearing masks

The second wave of coronavirus infection swept over Western countries and Russia. In addition to the active development of vaccines and research on their effectiveness, the authorities and specialists see the responsibility and conscientiousness of citizens themselves as the main measure to combat the pandemic. We are talking about maintaining social distance, reducing the number of contacts, avoiding visiting public spaces, as well as wearing personal protective equipment - gloves and masks. And if there are conflicting points of view about the benefits of the former, scientists have reached some kind of consensus about the latter.

In the spring, opinions on this matter differed: the World Health Organization initially recommended wearing masks only to doctors and those who were already sick, so as not to provoke their deficiency. In April, a study by Korean scientists was released, whose experiment showed that when coughing, viral particles can enter the environment, even if the infected person wears a medical mask. US experts also said last month that protective screens and masks with valves are not able to effectively block the spread of viruses.

However, today masks, despite the controversial attitude towards them, are rather an obligation, since they can be fined for their absence (and in Sri Lanka, for example, a sanction is provided up to imprisonment for six months). In addition, citizens who ignore compliance with this requirement are partially blamed for the ongoing pandemic (allegedly they are responsible for the spread of the virus).

The authors of the new study, a team of scientists from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington (USA), reaffirmed what experts have been insisting on in recent months: the elimination of social distancing measures can lead to a huge number of deaths, and the wearing of masks in public places can save tens of thousands of lives. The work was published in the journal Nature Medicine.

“The key point is that there is a huge winter spike in disease ahead,” said Christopher Murray, lead author of the study and director of IHME, during a briefing. - At the moment, this wave cannot be completely prevented, but the widespread wearing of masks is one of the simple ways to defeat the epidemic in the United States. There is still no approved vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, and several pharmaceutical treatment options are available. And scientists don't predict new vaccines or drugs until 2021. Thus, non-pharmaceutical interventions are the only policy leverage available to reduce morbidity."

As the researchers remind, there is growing evidence that masks can significantly reduce the transmission of respiratory viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, thereby limiting the spread of Covid-19. An updated analysis of the effectiveness of masks showed a 40% reduction in the risk of infection (of all respiratory infections) for those who do not neglect masks, compared with the control group. Moreover, according to data on September 21, only 49% of respondents in the United States wear masks, the authors of the work noted.

According to their forecast, by February 2021, the number of deaths from coronavirus in the United States (reference scenario) will reach 511,373 people (in the world - 2,408,343 deaths, in Russia - 112,916).“The universal use of masks (95% of people in public places) could save an additional 129,574 lives from September 22, 2020 to the end of February, or 95,814 lives, provided 85% wearing masks. We defined the "universal" figure as 95% of people wearing masks in public places - based on the highest observed coverage of mask use in the world (in Singapore) during the current pandemic, "the study says.

At the same time, in accordance with the worst-case scenario, if the authorities in various states continue to ease restrictions, by February 28 in this country alone 1,053,206 people could die from SARS-CoV-2, and if 95% of Americans still wear masks in public places, the figure will be reduced to 381 798 deaths.

“New epidemics and a second wave are not inevitable. Some countries, such as South Korea, Germany and New Zealand, have seen a steady decline in the number of Covid-19 cases. Signs that seasonality is playing a role in transmission underscore the importance of taking action both before and during the pneumonia season. It is not yet clear if Covid-19 will follow seasonality like other coronaviruses. The wearing of masks has become a controversial issue, but by the end of 2020, they can help contain the second wave of Covid-19, while reducing the need for large-scale implementation of social distancing measures. In countries where mask use was common, such as Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, and Iceland, transmission has decreased and in some cases has stopped. These examples confirm the predictions and conclusions made in our study. US residents will likely have to choose between wearing masks more responsibly or the risk of re-imposing severe and economically “harmful” restrictive measures - or an increase in the death toll. », - summed up the scientists.

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