June 12, 2020 at 9:36 AM EDT – Updated June 12 at 10:32 AM
(CNN) – Masks seem to be the most effective way to reduce person-to-person spread of COVID-19, according to new studies.
Researchers in Texas and California looked at infection rates in Italy and New York before and after face masks became mandatory. Both places saw a slower spread of the virus once those measures were in place.
The study found that wearing a mask prevented more than 78,000 infections in Italy between April 6 and May 9. In New York, masks prevented more than 66,000 infections between April 17 and May 9.
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“When facemasks are used by the public all the time (not just from when symptoms first appear), the effective reproduction number, Re, can be decreased below 1, leading to the mitigation of epidemic spread,” the study said.
Scientists say face coverings block aerosols and droplets to prevent airborne transmissions of the virus. Although social distancing, isolation and hand sanitizing can minimize contact transmission, they don’t protect against airborne transmission.
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