Explaining the science behind whether face masks work

Local News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – To wear a mask or not to wear a mask has been a hot topic across the state. That’s why we decided to ask the experts. The state’s epidemiologist said there is still a lot unknown about the virus but wearing a mask does help prevent the spread.

Arkansas Department of Health Epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer Dillaha says it’s easy for one COVID-19 case to multiply.

“This virus is much more contagious than we originally thought. Most people when we do their contact tracings have exposed at least a couple of people,” Dr. Dillaha said.

Dr. Dillaha said the virus spreads by droplets and aerosols given off when coughing, sneezing, talking and even breathing.

“Wearing a mask blocks that and prevents the clouds of particles and water and moisture that carries the virus from going very far and spreading to other people,” Dr. Dillaha said.

Just how far can these particles travel when someone is not wearing a mask? Dr. Dillaha said breathing they can travel about two to three feet, talking up to four feet, sneezing and coughing can travel past the social distancing guideline of six feet all the way up to ten feet.

“One of the best ways to spread it is by singing because that does an excellent job of aerosolizing the particles that carry the virus,” Dr. Dillaha said.

Dr. Dillaha says one of the biggest reasons to cover your face is because many people spread the virus without even knowing they have it.

“Some people have such mild symptoms or none at all that they don’t realize they’ve been infected,” Dr. Dillaha said.

She knows there’s some debate on whether the masks actually work.

“One of the largest hospital systems in Boston Massachusetts studied this. They put facemasks first on all of the healthcare providers and then later they added facemasks for all of the patients even the ones they didn’t suspect had COVID-19 and they remarkably dropped the infection rates among patients and healthcare providers,” Dr. Dillaha said.

She said while the proof is easy to find, there are still the naysayers.

“I think one of the issues is people don’t believe in it because they don’t want to wear the mask,” Dr. Dillaha said.

Dr. Dillaha said it’s crucial that everyone follows the mask mandate to help slow the spread. Now, the next question is which mask works the best. We tested out four of the most popular kinds of masks and will have that story Monday, August 3rd.

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