A new BYU analysis of more than 115 studies has found face masks to be a powerful tool for stopping the novel coronavirus and controlling COVID-19.

© Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Fiona Spas rearranges a window display of face masks for sale at iconoCLAD in Salt Lake City on Friday, June 26, 2020. On Thursday, Gov. Gary Herbert approved requests from Salt Lake County and Summit County to require that masks be worn in public in those two counties.

The analysis — done by the Plant and Wildlife Sciences Department of the College of Life Sciences — found masks could also accelerate the economic recovery from the pandemic, which forced thousands of businesses throughout the country to shutdown in its wake. Here are the key highlights from the BYU analysis: There is convincing evidence from field observations and experiments that wearing masks reduces spread of COVID-19 for the public and health care workers, according to BYU. Masks stop infected people from spreading the virus because of respiratory droplets, which are released when we cough, speak or breathe. Research shows 90% of droplets carrying the virus. Masks are highly safe and have uncommon side effect. Masks aren’t the only way to stop the virus, though. Other tactics — like “physical distancing, frequent hand-washing, rapid testing, and coordinated contact tracing” — are needed, too, according to BYU. Wearing face masks could cut the COVID-19 growth rate, which would “prevent the need for a second round of economic shutdowns,” according to BYU. This could lead to result in an economic benefit of about $1 trillion. Key quotes: “Masks could be one of the most powerful and cost-effective tools to stop COVID-19 and accelerate the economic recovery.” Masks are highly safe, with only minor and uncommon side effects,” the analysis said. “In addition to many medical studies, public masking has been proven safe among children, adults, and the elderly in cultures where this practice has long been common.” “There is now convincing evidence from multiple controlled experiments and field observations that wearing masks reduces the transmission of COVID-19 for health care workers and the public. Most of this evidence is COVID-19 specific and has emerged in the past few months.”

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