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New research suggests that face coverings help reduce the transmission of droplets, though some masks are more protective than others

Face masks are emerging as one of the most powerful weapons to fight the new coronavirus, with growing evidence that facial coverings help prevent transmission—even if an infected wearer is in close contact with others.

Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said he believes the pandemic could be brought under control over the next four to eight weeks if “we could get everybody to wear a mask right now.” His comments, made in mid-July with the Journal of the American Medical Association, followed an editorial he and others wrote there emphasizing “ample evidence” of asymptomatic spread and highlighting new studies showing how masks help reduce transmission.

His comments are the clearest message yet from the CDC, amid fierce debate over facial coverings, fueled initially by shifting messages from federal and global officials about their necessity and then by those espousing individual liberties.

Researchers from around the world have found wearing even a basic cloth face covering is more effective in reducing the spread of coronavirus than wearing nothing at all. And many are now examining the possibility that masks might offer some personal protection from the virus, despite initial thinking that they mostly protect others.

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