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The growing scientific evidence for masks to fight Covid-19, explained

Vox – It’s true the evidence for masks was weak before. That’s changed. “…The research increasingly favors both individual mask-wearing and policies requiring universal masking. It suggests that masks not only help stop the spread of the coronavirus — by preventing the spread of virus-containing droplets that people spit out when they talk, sing, laugh, cough, sneeze, and so on — but that policies requiring masks work to significantly slow community transmission. “The evidence on masks is getting better and better,” Ashish Jha, faculty director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told me. “None of it is bomb-proof evidence. It’s not a large randomized trial. But given that that’s unlikely to come … we’re now at a point where it’s, really, very good evidence.” The research doesn’t mean that masks allow for reckless behavior: Other precautions, from handwashing to physical distancing, are still crucial in the fight against Covid-19. But it does show that masks, coupled with other precautions, help. The growing research for masks also shows how important it is to be adaptable in a fast-moving disease outbreak. There’s still a lot about the coronavirus we just don’t know, such as whether kids widely transmit the virus and what forms of social distancing are most effective. How well a society does against Covid-19 could come down to how quickly it reacts and adapts to new evidence as we get it.

This is a landscape that’s rapidly changing,” Jade Pagkas-Bather, an infectious diseases expert and doctor at the University of Chicago, told me. “We didn’t have the knowledge we have today that we had a few months ago. That’s why things are confusing.” With masks, the evidence still isn’t totally definitive — science can be a very slow-moving process. But it’s increasingly pointing in one direction: During this pandemic, we all should wear a mask whenever we go out in public…”

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