A new study showed an increased rate of face-covering due to COVID-19. This indicated that people are starting to take the situation more seriously than before.
The surge in face-covering has been determined by a group of scholars. They found that more people are beginning to take things seriously. The main reasons for the increased rate of face-covering include vaccine uncertainty, risk of becoming seriously ill, and chance of dying due to COVID-19. The results were published by the Risk and Social Policy Group, an interdisciplinary organization.
More People Are Covering Their Faces Due to COVID-19
In the early months of the pandemic, many individuals took things lightly even if the disease is highly contagious. Because of that, several cities were forced into lockdowns and regional healthcare systems nearly overwhelmed. At that time, daily cases and daily deaths were exponential. But the news of experimental vaccines gave hope to lots of people worldwide.
Unfortunately, vaccine uncertainty is rising as well. The most common reason is the lack of transparency by some pharmaceutical companies. That has been fueled by recent trial pauses due to serious adverse effects experienced by a few participants. While the situation favored vaccines less, it favored some health protocols, which governments have been recommending for months.
A recent study by scholars was conducted including an expert at the University of Central Florida (UCF), a US public research university. Their study showed that people started to become serious in covering their faces to avoid COVID-19. In the second part of the three-part survey, people began changing their behavior in the state of the pandemic. The lack of an effective vaccine and treatment had forced people to recognize the importance of face masks.
"These data provide valuable insights into public perceptions and behavior and demonstrate where messaging should be focused, such as priority populations, and potential pathways for effective communication," said Lindsay Neuberger, an associate professor from Nicholson School of Communication and Media at UCF.
The Wave 2 survey dated in August 2020 had 2,078 participants from six US states. About 35% were males and 64% were females. Around 34% were aged 18 to 34 years, 43% were aged 35 to 55 years, and 23% were aged 55 years and older. Approximately 72% of participants were non-Hispanic White, 9% were non-Hispanic Black, 10% were Hispanic/Latin American, 5% were Asian, and 4% were from multiple ancestries.
The survey included the state of physical and mental health of participants. For physical health, 8% said it has gotten worse, 81% said it stayed the same, and 11% said it has gotten worse. For mental health, 6% said it has gotten better, 73% said it stayed the same, and 22% said it has gotten worse. This part showed a decline in the mental wellbeing of participants due to the global crisis.
A part of the survey inquired about the perceived risk among participants. On average, respondents believed that there was a 30% chance to contract the coronavirus, a 36% chance to become seriously ill, and a 23% chance to die from the disease. The perceptions reflected the behavioral changes in respondents.
One question was the frequency of physical distancing outside their household in the past week. About 36% said always, 34% said often, 18% said sometimes, 6% said rarely, and 3% said never. There was a 3% classified as not applicable since they never left home or encountered another person. Another question in the survey inquired about the use of face masks or coverings. An estimated 98% of respondents reported owning a type of face covering. Around 18% of them owned an N95 respirator or similar devices, 81% owned a cloth mask or face covering, 43% owned a paper surgical mask, and 2% owned a different type of face protection.
For the use of face masks or coverings, 49% of respondents reported never wearing them outside, 24% reported sometimes wearing them outside, and 27% reported wearing them outside at all times. Indoors but not at home, 6% said they never use either masks or covering, 15% said they sometimes wear one, and 79% said they always wear one. And in outdoor gatherings, 31% said never, 27% said sometimes, and 43% said always.
Neuberger noted that the face-covering outdoors was 79% in the second survey, higher compared to 66% of the previous survey. Even the perceived risk of getting COVID-19 in the second survey was higher at 30%, compared to 2% of the previous survey. But the intention to be vaccinated declined from 54% to 46% between surveys.
The study concluded that more people recognized the potential of face masks in lowering the risk of COVID-19. Some might be starting to acknowledge existing preventive measures. But the growing vaccine uncertainty could pose a threat later on. Many expressed concerns with vaccine safety, effectiveness, and possible cost per shot.
Reusable and Washable Face Masks
YouGov, a British internet-based market research firm, conducted a survey between August 6 and 8, 2020, to know how British people wash reusable face masks. Health experts recommend washing reusable masks after every use to limit the risk of COVID-19. But the survey showed that only 13% of wearers wash the masks correctly. While 66% were washing their face masks incorrectly.
About 41% wash their mask at 60 degrees Celsius or higher and 59% wash masks below that temperature. Combined, 32% wash their masks after every use either below or higher than 60 degrees Celsius. Among those who incorrectly wash their masks, 31% wash them after every two to three wears, 10% after every four to five wears, 4% after every six to seven wears, 5% after every 10 wears or so, 15% have not washed their mask, and 2% responded that they do not know. For single-use masks, only 44% correctly followed the single-use rule of surgical masks. About 56% were using these masks more than once.
Right now, face masks, physical distancing, and proper handwashing comprise the vaccine people need to avoid COVID-19. Even if a vaccine gets approved soon, it does not mean that the person is completely immune and unable to transmit the virus to others. There are still factors that the first-gen COVID-19 vaccines may miss.