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New CDC data shows how wearing a mask protects the wearer; health experts stress mask commitment

"We now know it protects you and it protects others," a Sentara Healthcare expert said. "We have to talk about resilience."

NORFOLK, Va. — New scientific studies and CDC data show how wearing masks both prevents the spread of COVID-19 and protects the mask-wearer.

As coronavirus cases and positivity rates rise across the United States, local health experts are encouraged by the new data, emphasizing the effectiveness and need for community mask commitment.

“Now we know more about masking that really works," said Dr. Jordan Asher, Chief Physician Executive for Sentara Healthcare. "Now we know it protects you and it protects others.”

Asher said the "stronger" data and information shows how masks are beneficial. The new studies cited by the CDC shows how wearing masks can reduce virus transmission by more than 70 percent in some cases.

“You have to remember that with a new virus we learn things as we go, the reason why it takes time is you have to do the studies and look at the information," Asher said.

Asher said he hopes community members will pay attention to the need for wearing masks, especially as we enter the holiday season when more people will be spending time together indoors.

“I get some comments saying well there’s no proof, now maybe that comment will be less," he said.

In one study referenced by the CDC, two infected and symptomatic hairstylists didn’t transmit the virus to any of their 67 clients, because everyone wore masks.

Another study showed how infected people spent more than 10 hours on an airplane without infecting others because of diligent mask usage.

Brian Martin, Director of the Master of Public Health program at EVMS, said masking measures really do increase protection when there's community use.

“I know we’re tired of masking and physical distancing and the hand-washing routines and things like that, but remember these are our only strategies we have to use against the virus," Martin said.

He stressed the need to wear masks in various settings as the risk increases nationwide.

“We’re seeing record cases both in the number of newly-identified COVID-19 positives as well as the number of hospitalizations," Martin said. "That really is alarming in particular as we move into the colder season in winter and people doing more things indoors.”

Over the last three weeks, COVID-19 testing positivity rates have risen in Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, among other cities.