How effective are masks really?

Ella Gage, Opinion Editor

 We all miss the pre-2020, pre-mask lifestyle. It was nice not walking around with face coverings on, looking like a neurosurgeon-bank robber hybrid. It was a blessing to be able to leave home without worrying about catching a deadly disease or worse yet, spreading it to parents or grandparents at risk. Masks will set apart this year from every other year. 

As a legal mandate, “no mask” is almost worse than no shirt or no shoes, and it certainly means no business. Moreover, N-95 masks have proven to be the only masks that are truly effective in preventing the spread of the virus . . . and N-95 masks are more like respirators than actual masks. This raises the question: do millimeter-thick pieces of fabric really protect us from an airborne disease? And second of all, if masks really are useless pieces of fabric, is it worth it to wear one at all?

Cloth masks and surgical masks are only a fraction as effective as the N-95 masks (CDC). If they barely stop the spread of the virus, why should we have to wear them at all?

  Because they still do some good. They serve as a barrier for the droplets that are produced by coughing, sneezing, laughing, and talking to other people. The CDC refers to this method as “source control,” a form of partially effective (but still preventative) way of limiting exposure to the virus at the source. 

Scientists largely support mask mandates requiring citizens to wear masks in public spaces. However, the debate for whether or not to wear a mask trundles on. Of course, masks are not 100% preventative. In fact, depending on the quality and type of the face mask, some do little to protect the wearer at all. 

This is a valid point to consider, but mask mandates have been bringing numbers down (CDC). A recent CDC report says “Your mask offers some protection to you,” the key word being “some.” Some protection is better than none, though.  

Furthermore, “Masks are a simple barrier to help prevent your respiratory droplets from reaching others,” (CDC). Young people who seem to be at low risk can prevent the spread to others, like the elderly, who very much are at risk.