Letter: Properly wearing effective face masks protects against death

Posted 6/9/22

It is not hard to find studies proving the value of wearing proper masks properly.

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Letter: Properly wearing effective face masks protects against death


In response to Debbie Lerman, who asked, in questioning the Philadelphia School District’s recent order to once again mandate masks in schools, ‘based on …. what?’

It is not hard to find studies proving the value of wearing proper masks properly. Here are the major points of a few scientifically sound, relevant, important studies:  

A report from the California COVID-19 Case-Control Study Team showed that “consistently wearing face masks or respirators while in indoor public settings protects against the acquisition of SARS-CoV-2 infection (9,10). …  Using a respirator (such as an N-95 Mask) offers the highest level of protection from acquisition of SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

An extensive study from the Max Planck Institute published in a highly-critical journal, Science, found that “high compliance and correct use of masks is important to ensure the effectiveness of universal masking in reducing the reproduction number for COVID-19.”

A large randomized trial led by researchers at Stanford Medicine and Yale University showed that “wearing a surgical mask over the face and nose is an effective way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in community settings.” 

A lengthy article in the Proceedings of the United States National Academy of Science stated: “Our review of the literature offers evidence in favor of widespread mask use as source control to reduce community transmission.”

An extensive review of literature related to mask wearing concludes, "Compelling data now demonstrate that community mask wearing is an effective nonpharmacologic intervention to reduce the spread of this infection, especially as source control to prevent spread from infected persons, but also as protection to reduce wearers’ exposure to infection." 

One paper was about a hair salon in which all staff and all patrons were required to wear effective masks properly, which found no cases of COVID in either staff or patrons. 

No employees - medical or nonmedical - at the UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute have contracted COVID despite continuing to care for patients throughout the pandemic, which is also the experience at the Wills Eye Hospital, here in Philadelphia. Wearing surgical masks in both institutions is required of all patients and all staff.

Masks only work when they are effective masks, such as N95 or KN95 masks, and when they are worn over the nose and the mouth. 

There is abundant, accurate, relevant and important evidence showing that properly worn, proper masks prevent spreading and prevent contracting COVID. 

Had the citizens of the U.S. acted responsibly, more than one million Americans would not have died of COVID. 

Does improper wearing of ineffective masks work? No. Wearing a bandana or cloth mask may help a bit, but only a bit, and wearing a mask so it does not cover the nose is useless - but routinely done. 

But properly wearing effective masks dramatically reduces the spread. This is a well-supported fact, based on studies from various countries by authors and institutions seeking the truth.

George L. Spaeth