Mask mandate: Is it effective?


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)– North Carolina residents are preparing for a mask wearing requirement that goes into effect on Friday as Governor Roy Cooper orders the use of face coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19.

It’s a move some people agree with.

“What other precautions can you really take?” said Triangle resident Christian Holloman. “It’s better to have it than not have it in my opinion.”

Since the pandemic began, guidance about face coverings has changed.  Initially, the CDC, World Health Organization and others said we all didn’t need to wear one.

Then, back in April, as scientists discovered the ease at which the virus was spreading, they recommended face coverings.

Even the surgeon general took part by producing a video to show how to create a cloth face covering out of old clothing, like a tee shirt.

Now North Carolina’s Governor has issued an executive order requiring their use statewide. 

Matt Powell is a person who favors mask use.

“I think they’re keeping people safe right now and whatever we can do to do that is the best route to go,” he said.

When CBS 17 caught up with him in downtown Raleigh, he wasn’t wearing a mask at the time.

“I’m outside in the outdoors,” he explained. “I feel like I’m beating a dead horse.”

Powell said he wears a mask whenever he goes into a store or restaurant, or is around people.

Studies indicate that any kind of barrier between an infected person and you will work, but the degree of effectiveness varies with the type of face covering you are using.

Here’s how face coverings reduce the transmission of COVID-19:

  • Without a mask, transmission probability is over 90 percent to another person without a mask
  • If you encounter a COVID-19 carrier while you are masked, transmission probability drops to 70 percent
  • If a COVID-19 carrier is wearing a face covering, transmission probability drops to 5 percent, even if you are unmasked
  • If both a COVID-19 carrier and you are masked, transmission probability is just 1.5 percent.

Although those are pretty good odds, some folks realize they aren’t fail-safe.

“I think they are effective to a certain degree, said Holloman. “Obviously you are able to breathe so something is getting through.”

Although face coverings vary in protectiveness, the rule of thumb is that any face covering is better than no face covering.

The CDC is updating its current face covering guidelines based on a study its conducting, so expect mask guidance to continue to evolve in coming weeks.

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