As the science has evolved and we continue to learn about COVID-19, guidelines have adapted to keep our communities safe and healthy. What we know now is that the most effective ways to reduce the spread of the virus are to wash hands, social distance, staying at least 6 feet away from others, and wear face masks.
- According to the Minnesota Department of Health, COVID-19 is an infectious disease causing viral respiratory illness and is spread through respiratory droplets. Infected people are able to spread the disease before having symptoms. Asymptomatic people can also spread the disease. Many people with COVID-19 have mild illness. Older adults and people with underlying medical conditions are at greater risk for severe illness.
- Minnesota Department of Health emphasizes that Physical distancing, hand washing and widespread masking help to slow the spread of COVID-19. It is important to stay at home as much as possible and stay 6 feet or more away from people when out in public. It is important to wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, often. Wearing a mask helps to stop infectious respiratory droplets from spreading to other people.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clarifies that everyone over the age of 2 that can wear a mask, should wear a mask. Masks should not be worn by anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, or unable to remove the mask without help.
- Wearing face coverings in the context of other respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis and influenza has been shown to reduce transmission. Model simulations using data from New York and Washington suggest that broad use of face coverings can significantly reduce community transmission of COVID-19 and decrease the number of hospitalizations and deaths.
- States that have mandated use of face coverings in public have seen a decline in their daily growth rate of COVID-19 cases, and these measures are estimated to have prevented between 230,000 and 450,000 cases. New CDC research has also shown decreases in COVID-19 incidence in counties that enact mask mandates, and continued increases in incidence in counties without mask mandates.
- Case studies have shown that universal masking for source control has helped to prevent transmission, including in a hair salon where stylists positive for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) did not transmit to their clients while wearing face coverings. The greatest community benefits are likely to be seen when as many people as possible wear face coverings in combination with other prevention measures such as social distancing and hand hygiene.
- On November 10, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published an updated analysis regarding masking to emphasize that in addition to providing ‘source control’ (reducing the emission of respiratory droplets), masks have the ability to also protect the wearer by filtering out “fine droplets and particles less than 10 microns.” The level of protection varies based on the type of mask, with multi-layer cloth masks made of more densely woven material being more protective, than single-layer masks with lower thread counts.