It was deeply disturbing to read a medical student’s letter to the editor 5/22 (“Cloth mask increases risk,” Sarah Printz). The misinformation shared on masks could cost lives.
She was likely referring to the 2015 study by MacIntyre et al. Touted as “proof” that cloth masks are harmful (http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2014-006577), the trial did NOT show cloth masks increase infection risks. It compared medical-grade and cloth masks worn by health care workers. The medical-grade group was supplied two masks daily for each 8-hour shift. Cloth mask participants received five masks, for the 4-week study that they were asked to wash and rotate.
Researchers concluded that cloth masks are not recommended for health care workers because of the superiority of medical-grade masks. The authors’ speculation that cloth masks could cause illness was unproven. Other research shows that cloth masks do reduce rates of community-acquired infections, especially when worn by many.
New research showing that droplets, even from speech, spread further and remain suspended for longer than previously known reinforces the infectivity of COVID. Protecting our fellow citizens is not a novel idea — Americans do this every day when following speed limits. If we are to safely reopen our society, common sense and courtesy to protect others includes masking in public.
Marian Wilson, PhD, MPH, RN and Dawn DeWitt, MD, MSc
Careywood, Idaho and Spokane