OzSAGE today released scientific guidance on the use of masks in the community, showing how to increase mask effectiveness, which is critical to keep COVID in check as restrictions are relaxed and more mixing and movement of people occurs. If we don’t increase mask use and mask effectiveness as restrictions are lifted, we risk a surge of infection.
Recent research found that two simple, and freely available, procedures (known as “double masking” and “knot and tuck“) each decrease virus exposure by a factor of more than ten compared to wearing a cloth or surgical mask alone. OzSAGE recommends that anyone using a cloth or surgical mask upgrade their protection by using one of these techniques to fight the highly contagious Delta variant.
OzSAGE’s Prof Raina MacIntyre explained that: “we need masks to fight the Delta variant, because current vaccines alone are not enough, as seen in other countries that have dropped mask mandates after reaching high vaccination rates.”
OzSAGE’s Prof John Rasko said: “Mask save lives, and better masks save more lives“.
OzSAGE recommend that, where possible, people increase their protection further by using a respirator, such as a P2, N95, or KF94. It is recognised that there are supply constraints in some areas and OzSage calls on the government and industry to ensure that sufficient supply is available to high-risk workplaces in addition to community members.
There is a substantial burden of disease in unvaccinated children. It will be important to protect children from COVID-19 as long as the virus is still circulating in our community. Using masks with good classroom ventilation is the best way to decrease viral transmission in a classroom setting, reducing transmission substantially. OzSAGE strongly recommends mask mandates in primary and high schools, and that well-fitted face masks be worn by all persons aged five years or older who are able to do so, along with 2-5 year old children where developmentally appropriate, in line with recommendation of the American Academy of Paediatrics.
OzSAGE’s Jeremy Howard said: “With cloth masks or surgical masks alone, the message in 2020 was “my mask protects you, your mask protects me”. In other words, mask wearing was largely an altruistic act, since it provided little protection to the wearer. However, with the mask upgrades discussed here, people can actually do something significant to protect themselves and their families.”