Masks here to stay, UW health sciences professor says

FILE - A face mask production line at an OOO Medsklad production facility at BEMZ Berdsk Electromechanical Plant in the town of Berdsk, Novosibirsk Region. 

Masks might not be mandatory in most places anymore, but experts predict masks will be a staple in society going forward. 

According to Ajay Sethi, associate professor of population health sciences and faculty director of the Master of Public Health program at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, it's become clear that masks were going to be a key part of keeping the spread of SARS-CoV-2 to a minimum. 

A news release says scientists learned the virus primarily spreads when an infected person breathes, talks or coughs, which ejects droplets containing the virus into the air. People in close proximity then breathe in these droplets.

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Sethi says for that reason, masks will be around for seasons to come, and will continue to be commonplace in health care settings. 

Rates of respiratory illnesses like the flu and cold were significantly lower in 2020 than they had been pre-pandemic, and this evidence may necessitate masking, Sethi said, though physical distancing also helped reduce respiratory infections in 2020.

In some countries, it is common and socially acceptable to wear a mask when one has symptoms of respiratory illness. In the U.S., the long-term acceptance and use of masks will likely be mixed, but don’t be surprised if you see boxes of masks become more commonplace around the workplace or home settings, like a box of facial tissue or hand sanitizer, Sethi said.