Voluntary Wearing of Mask Could Smooth a Quick Re-Opening

Voluntary Wearing of Mask Could Smooth a Quick Re-Opening
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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The COVID-19 death rates in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and South Korea each have been tiny fractions of those in Western European and Scandinavian countries and the United States and Canada.

As of April 18, Worldometers reported that Taiwan’s number of deaths per million inhabitants was 0.3. In Hong Kong, the number was 0.5. The numbers in Singapore, Japan, and South Korea, respectively, were 2, 2, and 5.

The numbers in Western European and Scandinavian countries and the U.S. and Canada, from lowest to highest, were: Finland: 16; Iceland: 26; Liechtenstein: 26; Norway: 30; Canada: 39; Austria: 49; Germany: 53; Denmark: 60; Portugal: 67; Monaco: 76; Luxembourg: 115; Ireland: 116; U.S.: 117; Sweden: 150; Switzerland: 158; Netherlands: 210; U.K.: 228; France: 296; Italy: 384; Spain: 429; Andorra: 453; Belgium: 471; and San Marino: 1149.

Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea – as well as Germany and Iceland – are reputed to have been particularly prolific in testing and tracing those found to be infected, but Japan not so much.

So what explains the difference between these exceptionally low Asian country and city death rates and the much higher West European, Scandinavian, U.S., and Canadian national death rates?

In these Asian jurisdictions, masks covering the mouth and nose in public have been ubiquitous since the beginning of the pandemic. Not in Western Europe, Scandinavia, the U.S., and Canada.
This suggests that everyone wearing a mask in public may sharply reduce transmission of the virus.

This may have important implications for reopening the U.S. economy.

The key to reopening is stopping the spread of the virus. Testing and tracing are helpful, but they can only do so much. A test for infection with nearly instantaneous results that shows a negative result may be outdated in minutes, hours, or days if after the test, the person tested is exposed to someone infected.

We will never be able to test everyone continuously.

We don’t yet have even close to enough tests with quick and reliable results to test everyone even once. We will never have enough to test everyone every day or even everyone every week.

And we will likely never be able to trace enough of the test results quickly enough to make much of a difference in slowing the spread of the virus.

But right now, we all can wear masks, bandanas, or other mouth and nose coverings whenever we are in public. And the cost and burden of this measure are minimal. 
The experience in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan suggests that this may sharply reduce transmission of the disease by blocking droplets from our noses and mouths from getting close to and infecting others.

So everyone consider wearing a mask, a bandana, or some other mouth and nose covering in public. It may be the key to reopening the economy as much as possible as soon as possible.

David M. Simon is a lawyer in Chicago. The views expressed in this article are his own and not those of the law firm with which he is affiliated. For more, please see www.dmswritings.com

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