Helping flatten the curve around the world
The rate of infections and death is significantly lower in countries where face masks are mandatory attire. Check out some of the numbers: (Due to the nature of the pandemic, actual figures may have changed since this posting, but the robust correlation between wearing a mask and reducing the spread of the virus remains significant).
- Taiwan: 382 cases and 6 deaths. They’re making 10 million masks per day.i
- Mongolia: 16 cases and 0 deaths. Face masks have been mandatory since January.ii
- South Korea: Until late February, masks were hard to come by here, then the government stepped in and ensured a supply for everyone in the country. Before that point, South Korea showed a similar-shaped trajectory to Italy. After masks became widely available, the exponential growth slowed, and today the number of active cases is decreasing. There is no economic lockdown in South Korea.iii
Research says YES—masks help slow the spread of viral villains
- Masks plus handwashing = reduction: Two simple practices could cut the spread of flu-like symptoms up to 75%, according to a University of Michigan study. That’s the difference between a pandemic and something that fizzles away!!iv
- Masks have a significant impact on viral transmission: An FDA analysis of the flu estimates the massive impact a mask can have on that virus. If 50% of the population uses one—transmission is reduced by half. If 80% of us wear one—the virus is pretty much toast.v
- Put a price on it: Try these numbers on for size—modeling by Yale researchers estimate that “the benefits of each additional cloth mask worn by the public are conservatively in the $3,000-$6,000 range due to their impact in slowing the spread of the virus”!vi
So, are homemade masks effective?
- Yes, data says they help: After the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, scientists at the University of Cambridge decided to see how homemade cotton masks compared to surgical types. They tested the ability of different masks in capturing 0.02-1 micron particles, which the coronavirus, at 0.1 microns, fits within. The findings are reassuring for everyday superheroes and citizens:
- Homemade cotton masks: 50-60% capture of viral particles, plus they remind you not to touch your face.
- Surgical masks: 80% capture.
- N95 masks (recommended for medical personnel): 95% capture.
- Let’s talk about viral load: Homemade masks help reduce viral load, and this gives the immune system more time to do its work to support our health! One study tested the short-term (10-15 minutes) and long-term (3 hours) effectiveness of different masks in preventing ongoing transmission by a simulated infectious subject. Check out the findings:
- Short-term wear = protection all around: In this scenario, the research shows that ALL masks protected both the wearer and the environment surrounding them. Surgical masks were 2x better than homemade, and the FFP2 (European designation for N95) was 50x better than homemade and 25x better than the surgical.
- Long-term wear = similar results: In the long-term situation, every mask provided protection with similar levels of difference between them.
- The key takeaway: Here’s what the researchers concluded. “Given the need for the population to acquire sufficient natural immunity over time, it cannot be excluded that the amount of protection conferred by homemade masks might sufficiently reduce viral exposure to impact on transmission during the early waves, while allowing people enough exposure to start mounting an efficient immune response.”vii
At the end of the (very long) day, based on the evidence and now the CDC recommendations—Natural Grocers believes that homemade, washable, cotton masks are one more vital way that we can support our Crew and communities. Yes, the pandemic playbook demands that multiple measures be deployed together to help slow the spread. So making masks mandatory in our stores does not mean that we’re relaxing our vigilant standards of sanitization or social-distancing protocols. It does mean that we are employing one more strategy to defend our everyday superheroes and those they serve against the threat of this virus by doing everything possible to help flatten the curve.
vii https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2440799/pdf/pone.0002618.pdf (this is the reference for the entire section about the effectiveness of homemade masks)