A new study from researchers at Yale, Stanford, the University of California Berkeley, and others was able to demonstrate what the authors said is “the effectiveness of masks in preventing infection in a real-world community setting.”
The randomized trial involved more than 340,000 people in 600 villages in Bangladesh and was separated into two parts. First, researchers found that four interventions increased mask-wearing. The four interventions included no-cost free masks distribution, offering information on mask-wearing, reinforcement in-person and in public, and modeling and endorsement by trusted leaders.
Utilizing those four interventions, researchers found mask-wearing increased to 42% in targeted villages, up from 13% in control villages.
In the second part of the study, researchers checked those in the targeted and control villages for COVID-19 symptoms. If symptoms were reported, they were tested for COVID-19. Researchers said in villages that were targeted with mask promotion programs, there were 9.3% fewer symptomatic infections than in the control villages. If surgical masks were distributed, instead of cloth masks, infections were 11% lower overall, 23% lower among those 50-60, and 35% among people over 60.
The researchers said the results of the study showed, “there is clear evidence that community mask-wearing can reduce COVID-19” and “the effects were substantially larger in communities where surgical masks were distributed.” Further, the researchers said mask-wearing can be “increased through a combination of four core intervention elements, now called the ‘NORM’ model.”
The NORM model stands for “No-cost mask distribution, Offering information, reinforcement to wear masks, and Modeling by local leaders.” Researchers said while this method helped increase mask-wearing, other ideas like village-level incentives, text messages, or even “altruistic messaging” didn’t help increase usage of masks.
According to the researchers, the study opens the door to future research that should analyze expanding mask usage to fight other diseases.
“Whether people with respiratory symptoms should generally wear masks to prevent respiratory virus transmission –– including for viruses other than SARS Co-V-2 –– is an important area for future research,” researchers reported in the study. “The findings from this study suggest that such a policy may benefit public health.”
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