There’s a fierce debate over mask-wearing in America. Many Americans disagree with the government mandating face coverings for citizens, while others believe it’s the responsibility of the government to keep citizens safe, and are pushing for a national mask-wearing mandate.
The CDC recommends that all citizens wear face coverings on their website:
Sweden has taken a different approach to COVID than America and other European countries. Instead of locking down their citizens and forcing them to wear face masks, they are relying instead, on voluntary measures focused on social distancing and the optional mask-wearing.
Daily Mail reports – Most schools have remained open and many businesses have been continued to operate to some extent, meaning the economy has fared better than many others.
Sweden, which has stood out among European countries for its low-key approach to fighting the coronavirus pandemic, recorded its highest tally of deaths in the first half of 2020 for 150 years, the Statistics Office said on Wednesday.
Covid-19 claimed about 4,500 lives in the period to the end of June – a number which has now risen to 5,800 – a much higher percentage of the population than in other Nordic nations, though lower than in some others including Britain and Spain.
New York Post – Sweden’s top infectious disease expert has resisted recommending face masks for the general population — arguing it’s “very dangerous” if people believe the coverings alone will stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Anders Tegnell, chief epidemiologist at Sweden’s Public Health Agency, has repeatedly expressed skepticism that face masks will control virus outbreaks, the Financial Times reported.
“It is very dangerous to believe face masks would change the game when it comes to COVID-19,” said Tengell, who is considered the country’s equivalent of Dr. Anthony Fauci from the White House COVID-19 task force.
He noted that countries with widespread mask compliance, such as Belgium and Spain, were still seeing rising virus rates.
“Face masks can be a complement to other things when other things are safely in place,” he said. “But to start with having face masks and then think you can crowd your buses or your shopping malls — that’s definitely a mistake.”
He completely brushed off the prospect of wearing masks last month, saying, “With numbers diminishing very quickly in Sweden, we see no point in wearing a face mask in Sweden, not even on public transport.”
LA Times reports – Researchers will tell you that masks won’t provide full protection. And teasing out the science of masks will take time. But Marr says there’s enough evidence already to say that, combined with measures like social distancing, masks really do help.
“From what I’ve seen, I would be comfortable sending my kids back to school if everyone’s wearing masks and they’re staying as far apart as possible,” Marr says.
Of course, how much protection a mask provides — both to the wearers and to the people around them — depends on the type of mask and whether you are wearing it properly. (Note: It has to cover your nose as well as your mouth.) N95 respirators are designed to fit tightly around the nose and mouth so that the air you breathe has to go through the mask; when worn correctly, they block at least 95% of small airborne particles. N95 masks protect both the wearer and other people, but they’re still in short supply and should be reserved for health care workers and emergency responders.
Surgical masks are designed to protect people from the wearer. Because they fit loosely, the wearer can still breathe in unfiltered air from the sides. Even so, surgical masks provide some benefit to the wearer as well: Laboratory testing has found that surgical masks block out 75% of respiratory-droplet-size particles.
Avoid masks with a valve in the front. That valve lets unfiltered air out, so it won’t protect other people if you’re contagious. And after all, protecting others is one of the main reasons to wear a mask in the first place.
As for cloth masks, the protection depends on what they’re made out of and how well they fit. But with the right combination of materials, you can create a cloth mask that offers protection to the wearer in the 30% to 50% range or more, says May Chu, an epidemiologist at the Colorado School of Public Health who co-authored a paper published on June 2 in Nano Letters on the filtration efficiency of household mask materials. That’s far from full protection, but combined with social distancing and hand-washing, she says, it’s certainly better than nothing.