mask use will save 130,000 lives

Better mask use will save 130,000 lives


Some of us may be feeling more confident now as the COVID-19 numbers in Brazil have come down from their peaks. We are likely seeing more people without masks, or with their nose exposed. We might be tempted to do the same. And a few months ago, alcohol gel bottles were everywhere, but now they don’t seem as plentiful.  

These all may seem like positive signs, and especially with summer coming, we might be looking forward to a more normal summer? Realistically, though, if Brazil is like the USA and Europe, the cases in Brazil will soon rise again.

Particularly in Europe, COVID cases and deaths dropped dramatically after people got serious about masks and social distancing. But there (like here in Brazil now), businesses began to open up, and people began to get together at parties, bars, family reunions, and restaurants.  (Life is much easier without a mask.) 

And what happened—many countries in Europe are witnessing, to their horror, hospitals again overflowing. In the USA, after what seemed like a plateauing of the epidemic, the daily number of new cases is now the highest of the entire epidemic.  

Few of us are used to dealing with an epidemic, with an invisible foe. But this is how the great Pandemic of 1918 occurred; with waves of infections, and periods in-between when many people thought the problem was overcome. But viruses can be cruel, and, in matters of survival, seem smarter than we are. Once people start to relax, the virus—hiding all along (just in fewer people)—ignites, and burns especially the people who have let down their guard.

We have heard this story many times. A person or couple has been careful with mask use and social distancing, then for one “special” event, they let their guard down (it seemed ok for just one time with friends or family, no?), and a few days later they wake with severe fatigue, body aches, headache, and fever.

It would be different if we could say that medical science has developed a cure—or even effective treatments—for COVID, but the truth is that there is no cure, nor any miraculous treatments. Yes, more people fortunately are surviving COVID if they are hospitalized, but still many people do not survive, and some are left with lingering symptoms that may last months.

The purpose of this post is to remind you of an inconvenient truth— in our current situation, before an effective vaccine, unless you wear a mask and practice social distancing, you have a significant risk of contracting COVID. Remember that while you can contract the virus from infected surfaces, the risk is far greater from being too physically close to someone who doesn’t realize they are infected.

Masks save many lives

This latest forecast tells us what we need to do. A statistical model published in the 23 October Nature Medicine, projects that, if 95% of people wear masks while out, and practice good social distancing, 130,000 more people will survive by the end of February. This is 130,000 more lives saved compared with if mask use and social distancing remains as it is now (somewhat relaxed). This is a US statistic, but Brazil has closely followed the US COVID model, so the lesson to all of us is clear: relax mask use and social distancing at your peril. 

To find a doctor, of any specialty, anywhere in Brazil, check out our website:

See also in ProcuraMed:

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Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

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This post is related to specialty Infectious Disease. Below is a list of some physicians related to this specialty.