The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to strongly advise the wearing of face masks to prevent the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
On July 14, 2020 the CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said in a press releaseTrusted Source: “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus — particularly when used universally within a community setting.”
While these recommendations have been met with some skepticism among the public, scientific evidence continues to show that masks do work.
As to the reasons why, the experts say the science is quite simple.
Why face masks work
Transmission of the coronavirus is thought to occur through respiratory droplets that are released when people speak, sneeze, or talk, according to Dr. MeiLan Han, a professor of medicine in the division of pulmonary and critical care at the University of Michigan.
If these droplets land in the mouth or nose of people nearby, or are inhaled into the lungs, a person can contract the virus.
Masks create a physical barrier that catches these droplets and prevents them from spreading as far into the surrounding air as they normally would.
Han said the masks become even more important because a significant proportion of people who get COVID-19 either don’t exhibit symptoms or there’s a delay before symptoms show up.
Studies show, however, that these people can still transmit the virus to people around them.
The data suggest that the use of face coverings can help limit the spread of the disease by these asymptomatic and presymptomatic individuals, said Han.