This article was reviewed by Idil Temel, one of our subject matter experts.
The paper we’ll be demystifying can be found here, if you’d like to follow along!
Researchers in the present study found that 1-2m of physical distance can help decrease the spread of COVID-19. Furthermore, it was found that face masks and eye protection can also help decrease COVID-19 cases.
Health workers, scientists, and the media are always pointing out how COVID-19 can spread when people are in close contact with others. There is a lot of talk on whether the use of face masks and eye protection can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Any advice by healthcare professionals, such as physical distancing rules, must be based on scientific evidence. As a result, it is crucial to look into whether physical distancing, face masks and eye protection can help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Towards this, the present study looked at data to determine the optimal physical distancing that can help minimize COVID-19 cases. The study also accessed whether eye protection and face masks can help reduce the spread, as well.
The researchers in the study looked at 172 studies from 16 countries on severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19), severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV or SARS), and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV or MERS). SARS-CoV-2, SARS and MERS are all respiratory viruses of the coronavirus family.
To figure out which studies to include, the researchers made sure that they examined study titles and summaries and completely read each study. The researchers also checked whether the results in each study had significant mistakes.
After analyzing the 172 studies, the researchers found that 1m of physical distance can help reduce COVID-19 cases. However, 2m of physical distance may be an even better option when it comes to reducing viral spread.
The results of the study also suggest that face masks can help protect people against COVID-19. In regards to this, the study found that N95 masks or other similar respiratory-type masks may be better at lowering infection rates, in comparison to cotton masks or disposable medical masks. However, this comparison needs more assessment/research. The use of eye protection can also provide more protection. For healthcare workers or people who may be exposed to COVID-19, the results from the study suggest that face masks can help protect these individuals.
Many people question whether face masks may be more useful in a health-care setting compared to within the community. Nonetheless, results from the study show that there is no difference in the performance of face masks in different settings.
If everyone were to use face masks, people worry that there would not be enough supply for the people who have the greatest risk of infection. As a result, many healthcare workers are asked to re-use face masks and conserve their face mask supplies. Many healthcare workers and the media have been urging government officials to find solutions to prevent face mask shortages. As a result, the study also put to the test reusable cotton or gauze face masks. Investigating reusable masks was crucial, especially in light of new articles reporting that due to mask shortages, doctors around the world are reusing disposable face masks1.
It’s important to know that research on the success of reusing N95 masks was not mentioned and must be completed. Research must also be done to prove if reusing N95 masks or using reusable cotton face masks is more helpful in healthcare settings. Many people have family members, friends or partners working in the healthcare community and it would provide people with comfort, knowing that their loved ones are protected. Additionally, many people also have family members, friends or partners that are hospital patients. Therefore, this research would also provide people with comfort, knowing that their loved ones who may have a higher risk of infection, are protected from COVID-19.
This study has many strengths. The researchers previewed titles and the summaries, read the entire full texts, checked whether the results could have significant mistakes and did not restrict studies based on languages. Thus, the study included a wide range of data, without including a huge amount of unnecessary data that may impact the results. The study also included COVID-19 data because they wanted to make sure that they could connect their results to the current COVID-19 pandemic. This is beneficial as many researchers have only studied common respiratory viruses, such as the common flu.
Despite the promising results of this study, several limitations should be addressed. First, no randomized trials were included in this study. Rather, the researchers only looked at observational studies. Observational studies are studies where researchers observe the study participants, without doing anything to try to change the outcome of the results. This is important to be aware of as randomized trials can help remove population bias2. Population bias is when the study participants may differ from the population that the researchers want to study. This can create possible errors in the conclusions that the researchers develop3. In this study, the main issue of only including observation studies is that the precise physical distances in each study were not always available or were not always accurate.
Due to this, researchers in the study stated that randomized trials must be done on the best physical distance to help decrease COVID-19 cases. Randomized trials must also be done on the effectiveness of face masks and eye protection. Moreover, the researchers did not assess the duration of exposure to the virus when wearing face masks and eye protection. The researchers also did not assess whether face masks and eye protection were worn by patients in a hospital setting. These factors may change the outcome of the study and must be analyzed in future studies.
In addition, while the study did analyze COVID-19 data, most of the data was from SARS and MERS data. There may be a possibility that the results of this study are limited as the study was not focused on COVID-19. Thus, more research should be focused on COVID-19 data.
Regardless of this, the present study is a great starting point for research on physical distancing, face masks and eye protection. Thus, if possible, government and health officials should continue recommending physical distancing and the use of face masks and eye protection. We as the general public should also ensure we do our best to protect our loved ones from COVID-19. If you become infected with COVID-19, you can potentially infect your loved ones, which is something we all want to avoid. Thus, we must make sure that we are following the official COVID-19 prevention guidelines created by government officials.
Overall, the study found that 1m of physical distance can help reduce the spread of COVID-19. However, 2m of physical distance may be a better range to help decrease COVID-19 cases. The study also found that face masks and eye protection might help reduce COVID-19 cases.
It is important to be aware that the researchers stated that physical distancing, face masks and eye protection cannot completely protect people from becoming infected with COVID-19. This is why many on-going studies are attempting to develop a vaccine. Despite social distancing measures relaxing around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic is still on-going, and it is crucial that people still try their best to protect themselves, their family members and the community from COVID-19.