'It's not a mystery:' Face masks protect not only you but others as well, expert says

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- National health experts say you should wear a mask because even people with no symptoms can have COVID-19 and spread it.

If you've been refusing to wear a mask because you don't believe that advice, now you have something else to consider because one local expert says it could also help protect you.


"Let's be clear, there probably is some benefit of having the mask on to protect you," said Dr. David Wohl.

Wohl, an infectious disease specialist at UNC's medical school, said what mask wearers have been secretly hoping was true.

He says video experiments like those recently done at Florida Atlantic University clearly show that masks do cut down on respiratory droplets getting into the air and, he says, can in reverse block the droplets of others.

And some masks are better at it.

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It's widely known that COVID-19 is contagious and can be transmitted through droplets from coughing, sneezing and talking in close proximity to others.

"There's different degrees of blocking but they all block to some extent," he said adding that even a simple bandana is better than nothing at both preventing the spread of our droplets and keeping the droplets of others off your face.
But he says we didn't really need to see these experiments to know that we can physically block the travel of respiratory aerosol. He says we have generations of evidence in our own families.

"Anyone who has a kid who's coughing or sneezing, what do you say? Cover your mouth," he said. "We know this works. Your grandparents knew this. Your parents knew it. You know it. It's not a mystery. We show that physical barriers to some extent decrease the spread of droplets."

Wohl, who has been an infectious disease specialist for more than 25 years, said people need to stop bickering about doing something that can really make a difference - wearing a mask.

"It's good for everyone. It's good for our community. It's good for our state. It's good for our country thus it's patriotic. It's good for public health. It protects young people. It protects old people. So masking does help. It's not a sign of fear. It's a sign of strength," he said.

If he's right, wearing masks could help stop the virus and get the economy back on track sooner.

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