Wearing a mask could help save 33,000 lives, new study shows


Coronavirus test concept. Test tubes for 2019-nCoV analysis and medical form Coronavirus test over laboratory desk. Chinese Wuhan virus outbreak.

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – As COVID-19 cases across country and Texas surge with a seemingly unpredictable speed, mask-wearing is encouraged more than ever.

According to the latest study from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation of the Washington State University, wearing a mask can help save up to 33,000 lives until Oct. 1.

The research predicts about 180,000 deaths in the U.S. by October if more people do not start wearing a mask in public.

IHME graph showing predicted deaths in the U.S.

This number changes if 95% of people start wearing masks and help decrease the spread of virus. The number of potential deaths then falls to about 147,000, according to the IHME calculations.

The researchers also counted how many deaths could occur in each state with or without 95% percent of people wearing the mask.

Texas and New Mexico projections

In Texas, the death rate without enough people wearing masks can go up to more than 13,000, but with 95% percent of people complying with the mask guidelines, it drops to nearly 5,600 deaths.

New Mexico deaths could go up to almost 900 without mask-wearing and drop to a little over 600 deaths until Oct. 1, according to the study.

The easing of restrictions in Texas, with bars and restaurants reopening about a month ago, gave a climate of false security and things “getting back to normal.” As of last week, the restrictions are back on and cases are rising in triple digits each day, with more deaths reported.

Ever-changing recommendations

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Center for Disease Control has changed mask guidelines several times. As the research on the virus that causes COVID-19 progressed, the recommendations changed as well.

As of right now, the recommendation is for everyone to wear a mask when out in public.

Many have objected to rules that require them to wear a mask when shopping or going to a restaurant.

The latest protest against wearing masks was on Sunday in Austin, where the un-masked protesters gathered saying their freedom has been endangered and that the masks are not providing any protection against the disease.

With all the statistics and research in hand, questions will still arise about “why” we should wear a mask.

Who do masks save?

In the IHME release of the study, Dr. Christopher Murray, director of IHME, said that wearing a mask is mostly for protecting others around you and not just yourself.

You could be infected with COVID-19 without showing any symptoms, according to the CDC, which is one of the reasons why everyone should be wearing a mask in public. The percentage of asymptomatic cases that spread the disease is not yet determined but that only means more caution is required.

Wearing a mask is easy, but it does take some care in order to be effective.

You could be wearing your medical mask multiple times or reversing your cloth mask for further use, but scientists warn that this is not a safe practice.

How (not) to care for your medical mask

A group of scientists from various universities across the country gathered in a team called N95DECON which researches ways of decontaminating N95 masks and making them reusable.

Their methods are a work in progress but they have published what not to do with your N95 to make it reusable.

N95DECON graphic showing improper ways of decontaminating N95 masks

According to their recommendations, washing your N95 mask with soap and water will destroy the filtration system in your mask and make it inefficient.

Using alcohol as a disinfectant for the mask will also make it unusable, as well as putting it in bleach.

The research that N95DECON used for their recommendation also states that letting your mask air out overnight will not make it safe to use again.

In fact, medical masks should be used only once.

How to care for your cloth mask

Considering the shortage of medical masks such as N95s, cloth coverings have been an easily accessible and affordable way to stop the spread.

The CDC and the World Health Organization have both encouraged wearing any type of face coverings, but have also put out ways on how to properly wear, clean and store your cloth mask.

According to WHO, after you are done wearing your mask you should store it in a sealable bag until you are ready to wash it. They recommend washing your cloth mask daily with soap and water.

In their guidelines they state that reversing your mask and then wearing it is not safe.

What about face shields?

The CDC recognized another trend in wearing face shields. So far, the effectiveness of the shields has not been proven, but the CDC recommends wearing a mask with the shield, or a shield that wraps around the face.

If you are wondering what mask you should wear – medical or cloth, the WHO has provided with some answers.

WHO advises medical workers, people in direct contact with the virus and people with symptoms to wear medical masks.

For people over 60, people with underlying health conditions and everyone else, cloth masks will suffice.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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