TUESDAY, June 16, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Mandated face coverings represent the most effective means to prevent interhuman transmission of COVID-19, according to a study published online June 11 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Renyi Zhang, Ph.D., from Texas A&M University in College Station, and colleagues assessed transmission pathways by examining trends and mitigation measures in Italy, New York City, and Wuhan, China, from Jan. 23 to May 9, 2020.

The researchers found that airborne transmission is highly virulent and represents the dominant route for disease spread. In the three epicenters, the difference with and without mandated face covering represented the determinant in shaping pandemic trends. The number of infections was significantly reduced by this protective measure, by more than 78,000 in Italy from April 6 to May 9 and by more than 66,000 in New York City from April 17 to May 9. Other mitigation measures are insufficient by themselves for protecting the public, such as social distancing implemented in the United States.

“We conclude that wearing of face masks in public corresponds to the most effective means to prevent interhuman transmission, and this inexpensive practice, in conjunction with extensive testing, quarantine, and contact tracking, poses the most probable fighting opportunity to stop the COVID-19 pandemic, prior to the development of a vaccine,” the authors write. “Integration between science and policy is crucial to formulation of effective emergency responses by policy makers and preparedness by the public for the current and future public health pandemics.”

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