An analysis of studies across the world revealed that wearing a mask, hand-washing and social distancing are some of the most effective ways to prevent catching COVID-19 and spreading the disease.
The BMJ, a global health care publisher, released a massive review Thursday that analyzed 72 studies from around the world to evaluate how non-pharmaceutical health measures reduced cases of COVID-19. Researchers found measures like hand-washing, wearing masks and physical distancing significantly reduced incidences of COVID-19.
Researchers supported vaccines and agreed they have proven to be safe and effective and can save lives. However, most vaccines do not give people 100 percent protection, and it’s not known how vaccines will prevent future spread of COVID-19, given the growing trend of variants like delta.
There’s also herd immunity to consider as the threshold for achieving it varies greatly by the country and its population response to vaccines, types of vaccines available and which population groups are prioritized to get a vaccine, among other factors.
But public health prevention strategies have also been shown to be beneficial in fighting respiratory infections. Researchers found that wearing a mask could reduce COVID-19 incidence by 53 percent.
One experiment across 200 countries showed 45.7 percent fewer COVID-19 related deaths in countries where mask wearing was mandatory, according to the study. In the U.S., one study reported a 29 percent reduction in COVID-19 transmission in states where mask wearing was required.
Social distancing has also proven to be effective, with researchers finding that an analysis of five different studies indicated a 25 percent reduction in incidence of COVID-19.
Hand-washing was found to be another crucial preventative measure, with researchers finding that there was an estimated 53 percent reduction in COVID-19 incidence. Though researchers said this was substantial, their final analysis found it to be not statistically significant.
Researchers also found that lockdowns and closures of businesses and schools have largely been effective in containing COVID-19, but they depended on early implementation when rates of COVID-19 were still low.
“When implementing public health measures, it is important to consider specific health and sociocultural needs of the communities and to weigh the potential negative effects of the public health measures against the positive effects for general populations,” researchers wrote.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of Nov. 17, there have been more than 47 million total cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and more than 700,000 deaths. Despite the alarming numbers, and research supporting mask wearing, many states around the country have adopted policies against mask mandates, like in Florida, where Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed an executive order banning counties or municipalities from implementing such requirements.
According to AARP, only six states currently require most people to wear masks indoors in public places, regardless of if they have been vaccinated against COVID-19, while 11 states never imposed any mask mandate at any point during the pandemic.
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