Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Don't hug grandma or you might kill her.
There is a lot we don't know about Coronavirus, however, some interesting research has been published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In July 2020, the CDC released a report titled Community and Close Contact Exposures Associated with COVID-19 Among Symptomatic Adults ≥18 Years in 11 Outpatient Health Care Facilities. While that does sound like a mouthful, it held some interesting information concerning mask usage and COVID-19.
Take a look at the chart below:
Source: Page 4 of 7 CDC report
While this may look a bit confusing, it holds some key information. In a sample of 154 case patients taken between July 1st through the 29th, 108 positive testing patients reported that they always wore a mask. 22 reported that they often wore a mask.
As someone who only wears a mask to avoid getting a ticket, this was some very interesting information. However, it also raised a very important question. Why are so many people who wear a mask contracting COVID?
One theory is reusable cloth masks. Yes, they are better for the environment and were the most logical option when disposable masks were in short supply and needed for medical professionals. However, think about how you treat that reusable cloth mask. When was the last time you washed it?
Think about it. While some may be vigilant about sanitizing their hands before and after taking off their masks, many are not. You put on your mask, then touch door handles, shopping carts, items that others have touched, then take off your mask and stuff it in your pocket/purse/glove compartment/etc. This happens on repeat numerous times before the mask is sanitized.
But you touch your face less when you wear a mask, right? That depends. In a study published on July 16th, 2020 by the Wiley Public Health Emergency Collection, they found "An almost even number of respondents felt the mask would increase their face‐touching behavior (37.4%) as decrease it (36.6%). Fewer felt masks would not change their face‐touching behavior (26.0%)."
While many states, counties, and cities have mandatory mask requirements, forgoing a mask is not an option. So what can you do to lessen your risk of catching COVID-19 from a mask?
The Loma Linda University of Health published an article on June 16, 2020, detailing several ways of sanitizing your cloth face masks, stating, "Although it may be time-consuming to wash reusable masks daily, after each use, Sinclair says this healthy habit is essential to prevent germ transmission."
The moral of the story is this: the data shows the masks we are mandated to wear may actually increase our risk of contracting COVID-19 if proper precautions are not taken. By not sanitizing your masks, you may actually be putting yourself at risk. So wash your hands, and just as equally important, wash your mask.