Wearing face masks effectively reduce COVID-19 spread

The intervention tripled mask usage and reduced symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections.


Wearing face masks is one of the COVID-19 protocols to protect yourself from COVID-19. A new, largest study of its kind now suggests that wearing face masks, especially surgical masks, effectively reduces COVID-19 spread.

The study comes out from Yale University, Stanford Medical School, California, Berkeley, and the nonprofit Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA).

This study attempts to figure out the effectiveness of face masks at reducing COVID-19 in a real-world setting, where mask use may be imperfect and inconsistent. It was carried out among more than 340,000 adults living in 600 rural communities in Bangladesh.

Scientists found that increased mask-wearing significantly reduce the percentage of people with COVID-19, based on symptom reporting and SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing. They also tested both cloth and surgical masks.

They found that strong evidence that surgical masks are effective in preventing COVID-19. In the study, surgical masks prevented one in three symptomatic infections among community members 60 years and older.

Study co-author Laura Kwong, an assistant professor of environmental health sciences at Berkeley’s School of Public Health, said, “These results suggest that we could prevent unnecessary death and disease if we get people to wear high-performance masks, such as surgical masks, in schools, workplaces, shopping centers, places of worship and other indoor space. I would strongly recommend that people who spend time in indoor public spaces, including students, wear surgical masks or other high-performance masks such as N95s, KN95s or KF94s. Fit and comfort are essential, not for children, so child-sized KF94s may be most appropriate for so that.”

Dr. Stephen Luby, co-author and a professor of medicine and infectious disease at Stanford, said, “The randomized design provides confidence that the lower rates of COVID-19 in the intervention communities resulted from the mask promotion. These results illustrate the remarkable protection that low-cost masks provide.”

“While a few individuals have refused to follow mask mandates or violently opposed individuals who remind them that they are required to wear a mask, mask mandates have been able to increase mask-wearing in many locations substantially.”

Journal Reference:
  1. Jason Abaluck Laura H. Kwong et al. The Impact of Community Masking on COVID-19: A Cluster-Randomized Trial in Bangladesh. (Link to Paper)
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