Keep Those Masks On

A new study claims that the novel coronavirus is airborne, and mask mandates may have saved over 100,000 lives

Dana G Smith
Medium Coronavirus Blog
2 min readJun 12, 2020

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Credit: the_burtons / Getty Images

A paper published Thursday has made the strongest assertion yet that the primary way the novel coronavirus is spreading is through airborne transmission, and that masks can effectively prevent infection.

The authors of the study, published in the journal PNAS, write, “Airborne transmission is highly virulent and represents the dominant route to spread the disease… Our analysis reveals that the difference with and without mandated face covering represents the determinant in shaping the pandemic trends in the three epicenters.”

The researchers reached this conclusion by looking at the case and death curves between January and May in Wuhan, China, Italy, and New York City, and analyzing how these curves changed based on when each region implemented specific disease-prevention interventions — namely social distancing, testing, contact tracing, and masks. Based on when each intervention was introduced, the researchers tried to parse out which one contributed most to the eventual decline in cases.

It’s difficult to identify which measure made the biggest difference in Wuhan because they were all initiated at roughly the same time, but in Italy and New York…

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Dana G Smith
Medium Coronavirus Blog

Health and science writer • PhD in 🧠 • Words in Scientific American, STAT, The Atlantic, The Guardian • Award-winning Covid-19 coverage for Elemental