UW News

July 31, 2020

Soundbites: UW epidemiologist says face masks can be a tool for community health

UW News


Face coverings will continue to be an important and effective tool in combating the spread of COVID-19, public health experts say.

Individuals who wear face masks play a key role in limiting how fast the virus spreads in our communities, along with vigilant hand washing and physical distancing, explained Jen Balkus, an epidemiologist and assistant professor in the UW Department of Epidemiology.

Because you can have COVID-19 and show no symptoms, even healthy people should wear masks to protect others in case they have the virus and don’t know it. By covering your nose and mouth, masks limit the spread of droplets from coughing, sneezing and talking that might carry the novel coronavirus.

“In instances where there’s a high level of mask wearing, we’re seeing fewer infections compared to when masks are not being worn,” Balkus said.

Learning to have masks on hand is a good practice and will eventually feel more normal, especially since we may be doing it for a while, she added. “It might feel a little bit unfamiliar or uncomfortable or just plain awkward to be doing, but it’s such an important prevention tool.”

The Washington State Department of Health guidelines and statewide mask directive say that people should wear a face covering at any indoor or outdoor public space where they may be within 6 feet of someone who does not live with them. The UW also has a COVID-19 face covering policy.

For more information:
Jen Balkus: jbalkus@uw.edu
Kiyomi Taguchi, UW News video producer: ktaguchi@uw.edu