Masks and social distancing work, new analysis finds

A new analysis finds masks and social distancing help but hand washing and other measures are still needed to control the coronavirus

Researchers concluded single-layer cloth masks are less effective than surgical masks, while tight-fitting N95 masks provide the best protection. A distance of 1 meter (more than 3 feet) between people lowers the danger of catching the virus, while 2 meters (about 6 1/2 feet) is even better.

Eye protection such as eyeglasses or goggles can help too. None of the strategies work perfectly and more rigorous studies are needed, according to the analysis published Monday.

“This puts all that information clearly in one place for policymakers to use,” said study co-author Dr. Derek Chu of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

Still to come are results from more rigorous experiments in Canada and Denmark that are testing masks in randomly assigned groups of nurses and the general public. Until then, the new study in the journal Lancet provides reassurance that masks do help.

The World Health Organization, which funded the new analysis, has said healthy people need to wear a mask only if they are caring for a person with COVID-19. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants everyone to wear at least a cloth mask when grocery shopping or in similar situations where keeping distance is difficult.

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