Editors’ Debate: Are Masks Effective Against COVID?

Any Mask Is Better Than No Mask


At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, about eight months ago, finding a way to prepare for quarantine and prevent oneself from getting sick was incredibly difficult, and we can all agree to never forget how weird it was to see aisles of empty toilet paper shelves. But the most important and needed item, besides TP, was a mask. 

Nowadays wherever we go, we see everyone wearing some kind of mask, whether it’s the surgical blue disposables, handmade by grandma, or a N95. However, many people have taken the term, “face covering” to a new extent, and are concerned if wearing a mask actually does anything to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The short answer, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website, is yes: “The prevention benefit of masking is derived from the combination of source control  and personal protection is likely complementary and possibly synergistic, so that individual benefit increases with increasing community mask use.” 

This brings up the question: “What is the best mask to wear?” to which there isn’t a clear answer by any means.

According to Joseph Gardner Allen, a Harvard environmental health researcher in a CNN Health article about the most effective masks to wear,“You want to have a minimum two-ply mask, preferably a three-ply mask.” 

It is noted that gaiters and bandanas are not effective, since they are usually a one-ply thin material meant to protect one’s face from UV rays, not germs. These types of face coverings do not prevent spit or germs from getting in or out.

Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California stated that “cloth face masks– and that includes properly worn neck gaiters– filter out the majority of viral particles and provide some protection for an individual,” as reported in an article published by National Public Radio (NPR).

Of course, many people decide to wear these kinds of face coverings, rather than effective ones, because they feel that wearing them is more comfortable, and that COVID-19 is a hoax, or that they simply won’t get or spread the virus.

However, any face covering is at least something more than no face covering at all. Yes, everyone should be wearing an effective mask, to protect themselves and others, but not everyone agrees. 

Since the majority of people wear effective masks, it is still protecting those around them, even those who aren’t wearing one. If we lift the mandatory mask rule, even some of those who wore effective masks will likely stop wearing them, which will allow the virus to spread even faster than it is now. 

There has also been an increase  in the use of Face Shields, with no masks on underneath. This is also not an effective way to protect one’s self, because the particles can still go under or around the thin plastic that is ‘shielding’ the wearer’s face. 

Masks are essential right now to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and the guidelines should be more strict and specific, but any face covering is better than no face covering, when it comes to protecting one’s self and others.