Viruses do not live long outside a host. So every 10-14 days the virus needs its host to spread the virus to another host. On average someone infected with Covid-19 infects 3-4 other folks. This is called the Reproduction Rate. To control a virus the Reproduction Rate needs to be less than one. The results of this exponential rate of infection can be seen in the county where I live. Winnebago County went from 1300 cases on September 1 to over 15,000 today one day from the New year.
Last Summer Kansas’s Governor issued a state wide mask mandate that most counties opted out of. A Study by Kansas State University showed that the counties that opted out of the mask mandate had twice the rate of growth in Covid-19 cases than those that did not opt out. Berkeley California has a strict mandate with enforcement. Berkeley has a death rate of 8 per 100,000 on the same date Winnebago County had a death rate of 80 per 100,000. Wisconsin has a mask mandate that has no enforcement. Taiwan has had less than 10 deaths with a strict mask mandate and a weekly mask allocation program of high quality masks, either N95 or multi layer surgical masks. My last dental visit the dentist was wearing a N95 mask with a surgical mask over the N95. This is a virus that spreads easily through air. Dentist work in aerosol filled environments, so Dentist are especially careful. This virus can be controlled with a strict mask mandate that has enforcement. The Kansas study showed we can easily reduce the infection rate by half in counties with a mask mandate. Asian countries, with massive public transportation and crowded cities, that are perfect for viral spread, were able to control the virus with high end masking. This has kept their economies open.
If everyone would properly wear a high quality mask, or double mask with less effective masks we could lower the Reproduction Rate below 1. The further below 1 we lower it the faster the virus goes away. If we mainly rely on a vaccine that is 95% effective, we have to have 85% of folks vaccinated. A person who is an asymptomatic spreader, normally spreads the virus to 4 others, If 3 of the 4 folks are vaccinated those 3 do not get the virus, and now only one other person gets infected. Occasionally, all four of the folks are vaccinated, then the chain of spread is broken, the virus dies out. If we add strict masking to this equation once we hit 85%, with everyone wearing a mask, the spread is further cut in half or more, then the virus fails to find a new host a majority of the time, the virus dies out quickly. Until the United States has no new cases for several days, strict masking should be followed.