Are face masks really working?

Are masks working?

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases seems to be dropping in our state and many are attributing that to the statewide mask mandate.

Doctors said if you look at the data on the Alabama Department of Public Health’s website, you’ll see that the number of cases started to fall right after Governor Ivey’s mask order went into effect.

But if you’re looking for hard data to prove that those numbers dropped because of the mandate, doctors said you’re not going to find it.

Alabama’s top doctors said about two weeks after the statewide mask order went into effect, we started seeing a decrease in the number of new COVID-19 cases.

“In our numbers of new cases each day, and in our number of hospitalizations, and in the percentage of tests that were positive. So, it’s certainly from a time standpoint associated very, very closely,” said State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.

But while there appears to be a direct correlation with the mask mandate and the decrease in numbers, there’s no real evidence that’s what actually caused it.

“If people want absolute proof with a perfect study here locally or in Alabama they’re not going to find it because in order to do a study like that you would have to have a control group of people that wore masks and people who didn’t wear masks and watch to see how many of them got the disease and that would, at this point, be an unethical study,” explained Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson.

So why should people continue to wear face coverings?

“There are different lines of evidence that we have. One is just sort of laboratory evidence, if you will, these high resolution videos looking at the droplets that come out of people’s mouth when they talk, or certainly if people sneeze or cough and wearing just a simple cloth mask…you know…you can see on those high resolution videos how it blocks those droplets,” said Dr. Wilson.

“It certainly makes medical sense to all the medical researchers and public health officials and physicians who understand disease transmission. I think there is a consensus…there’s no serious argument that it’s not effective and so we believe that it works,” said Dr. Harris.

Dr. Harris said COVID-19 is still very new, so it could be a while before such data is made readily available.

However, he said there is plenty of data out there that shows how respiratory viral diseases can be prevented, so they’ll continue to push face coverings, social distancing, and good hand hygiene.

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