Are cloth face masks effective?


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Dr. Jeff Harp of Highland Family Medicine discussed the effectiveness of cloth face coverings during the COVID-19 pandemic Wednesday during News 8 at Sunrise.

Dr. Harp said there is no definitive evidence that cloth masks decrease transmission of the coronavirus.  “This leads some people to feel that they are of no use,” he said.

Studies show that they do block some of the viruses shed during exhalation.  Some types of cloth work better than others.  Multiple layers and tighter weaves are better. “Theoretically, then, any face covering will reduce the number of virus particles that reach the open air,” noted Dr. Harp. “When used as part of a whole personal program of protecting ourselves and others – handwashing, disinfecting, social distancing and masking, the mask is part of an overall package to reduce transmission.”

Dr. Harp said cloth masks do not work as well as microfiber medical masks. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough for everyone to have one. “It would be great if that was possible, but our overall supply is limited.  In the Rochester area we are fortunate in that are supply is adequate and that the local government is distributing them effectively.  Other areas of the country are not as fortunate.”

Other than possible skin irritation, Dr. Harp added there is no danger associated with wearing a mask.

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