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Should Queensland churchgoers wear a mask?

Mask up: Results, published on July 27 in the journal Thorax, clearly show a surgical mask as the most effective in blocking droplets and aerosols from talking, coughing and sneezing.

SHOULD Queensland churchgoers consider mask wearing as an extra precaution?

While we have generally followed the COVID-19 rules and avoided community clusters through careful social distancing and basic hygiene, should we start wearing masks too, as is now mandatory for Victorians going out in public?

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews says mask wearing is “common sense”, “relatively simple” and about “embedding behaviour” to bring COVID-19 case numbers down.

“We’re going to be wearing masks in Victoria and potentially in other parts of the country for a very long time,” he warned.

“There’s no vaccine to this wildly infectious virus and it’s a simple thing, but it’s about changing habits, it’s about becoming a simple part of your routine.

“Most of us wouldn’t leave home without our keys, we wouldn’t leave our home without our mobile phone.”

True.

Interestingly, changing habits and routines has already proven a lifesaver.

One of the surprise benefits of the last four months of coronavirus restrictions has been the low number of Australians contracting the flu.

Hundreds of flu deaths have been avoided because of lockdown measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Not a single flu death has been recorded since April.

And only 36 flu deaths were recorded this year compared to 430 during the same period last year.

Clearly a combination of school closures, physical distancing, hand hygiene and border closures not only slowed the first wave of COVID-19, the measures also stifled the flu.

Perhaps the best advice in Queensland right now is to consider face masks as another weapon in the hygiene armoury – and to at least, be ready with a plan to don a face mask if needed, and to know about the various mask options.

Right from the start of pandemic restrictions there has been confusion about how effective masks are in stopping the spread.

In Britain, where face coverings are mandatory on public transport and shops, there is already advice to churchgoers to remember that the purpose of masks is mainly “intended to protect other people, not the wearer”, and that “they are not a replacement for physical distancing and regular hand washing”.

The latest scientific wisdom can be boiled down to this simple point – an infected person wearing a mask sheds less of the virus and people around them are less exposed.

Results, published on July 27 in the journal Thorax, clearly show a surgical mask as the most effective in blocking droplets and aerosols from talking, coughing and sneezing.

From captured video it can be observed that, for speaking, a single-layer cloth face covering reduced the droplet spread but a double-layer covering performed better.

Even a single-layer face covering is better than no face covering.

However, a double-layer cloth face covering was significantly better at reducing the droplet spread caused by coughing and sneezing.

In summary, a surgical mask was the best among all the tested scenarios in preventing droplet spread from any respiratory emission.

If you can’t get hold of a surgical mask, a cloth mask is the next best thing, and the more layers the better.

An online video can show you how to make a mask with three pieces of fabric. For best results the fabrics should be water resistant for the outer layer, blended for the middle layer, and a water absorbing cotton fabric for the inner layer.

The US Surgeon General, Dr Jerome Adams, even demonstrates a simple face cover made without sewing, using two elastic bands and a folded piece of material – even a T-shirt will do.

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