11:56 AM

Talking May Spread COVID-19 – One More Reason to Wear a Face Mask



New research may explain how people with mild or no symptoms may infect others, reinforcing the importance of face masks and other precautions.​

As businesses in the tri-state area begin to reopen and allow customers inside, it’s important to stay informed on the latest guidance from health officials. According to the latest recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO), the coronavirus may linger the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next.

As research continues to show evidence of airborne transmission of COVID-19, it is critical to practice using face masks—especially indoors—to help slow the spread.

Wearing a face mask in public is now recommended by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 when social distancing can’t be maintained. This represents a change since the beginning of the pandemic, when less was known about how the disease spread, especially from people who didn’t show any symptoms.

For example, sneezing and coughing were thought to be the most common ways in which COVID-19 spreads between people. But a new research study suggests that even engaging in a conversation can put individuals at risk of getting the respiratory disease.

A report summarizing the study’s findings, published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that a person speaking loudly to another in a normal conversation can generate 1,000 respiratory droplets into the air in just one minute – enough to cause the disease to pass from the speaker to nearby individuals.

Additionally, the study revealed that infected droplets can survive in the air for up to 14 minutes and may travel more than six feet, which has been the recommended social distancing space to maintain when near people outside of your residence.

The research could help explain how people with mild or no symptoms are infecting others in confined spaces such as offices, nursing homes or cruise ships.

What does this mean for New Jerseyans? It’s simple: They should continue their efforts to wear face masks around others, maintain social distancing, frequently wash their hands and take other steps recommended by the CDC. COVID-19 is still here, all around us, and protective measures are the most effective methods for fighting it until a vaccine is discovered.

Face masks can make a difference

Covering the mouth and nose, face masks can block the release of virus-filled droplets into the air. They won’t totally block the spread. But some studies are now evaluating how much impact widespread adoption of face masks could have.

In soon-to-be-published research, the authors suggest that COVID-19 infection rates could statistically drop to approximately one twelfth the number of infections if 80 percent of a population wore face masks.

This doesn’t mean everyone needs to go out and find a hospital-grade N95 mask. In fact, these should be reserved for health care professionals. If you can’t get a surgical mask, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using homemade cloth coverings, like a t-shirt or bandanna, to make your own mask. These guidelines outline the best way to use fabric masks:

  • Do not share: Masks should be used by one person only and should not be shared, even with members of the same household.
  • For those DIYing or purchasing from a clothing retailer: The CDC recommends multiple layers for an effective mask, with fabric that allows for breathing without restriction
  • To clean your maskUse regular laundry detergent and the warmest appropriate water setting for the cloth used to make the face covering. To wash by hand, prepare a bleach solution by mixing 5 tablespoons of household bleach per gallon of room temperature water, soak for 5 minutes and rinse thoroughly with cool or room temperature. To dry, use the highest heat setting and leave in the dryer, or lay flat in direct sunlight, until completely dry.

Here are some tips for wearing a face mask:

  • Place your mask over your mouth and nose. Tie it behind your head or use ear loops to make sure it fits snugly.
  • Avoid touching your mask while wearing it. Remove it by untying it or lifting off the ear loops without touching the front of the mask or your face.
  • Wash or sanitize your hands if you touch your mask and immediately after removing it.
  • Don't put masks on anyone who has trouble breathing, is unable to remove the mask without help, or children under 2 years of age.

Face masks shouldn’t be used as a substitute for social distancing.

Don’t forget about these other preventive measures

As a reminder, here are the top measures we can all take to avoid getting – or passing along – COVID-19:

Practice social distancing. Official guidelines state you should stay six feet – which is about two arms’ lengths – or more away from other people outside of your home. But as the research study noted, and many scientists suggest, it’s prudent to stay farther than six feet apart, is possible.

Also, don’t gather in groups and avoid places that are crowded. This is important for anyone, but especially those at higher risk of becoming sick from the disease.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly … and often. Each time you wash your hands, use soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you have young kids, keep them interested by singing a verse of their favorite song.
  • Hands off. Avoid touching your face. That will help keep any droplets you may have on your hands from getting into your body via your mouth, nose, eyes or ears.
  • If you’re sick, stay at home. If you need care for a cold or other minor illness, contact your doctor for a virtual visit or use a telemedicine service, such as Horizon CareOnline. However, if your symptoms are life-threatening or your doctor instructs you to do so, don’t hesitate to go to an emergency room. Hospitals are taking extra precautions to protect patients and staff from being exposed to COVID-19.
  • Clean up! Clean and disinfect all surfaces you touch, at least once per day. Keep aware of everything you contact – such as phones and laptops, toilet seats and faucets, doorknobs and light switches, and more.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (Horizon BCBSNJ) is committed to the health and well-being of our members and communities, and that focus is further heightened during this pandemic. For more information, including answers about your Horizon BCBSNJ plan’s coverage related to COVID-19, visit https://www.horizonblue.com/coronavirus-2019.