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FOCUS: How effective are masks?

Some people may not be following the guidance or wearing the masks properly, but studies show virus particles do get captured by masks.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Mask mandates in both Kentucky and Indiana went into effect back in July but COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

Here is a graph that shows the new cases reported in Kentucky.

Credit: WHAS11

The orange bar marks the mask mandate start date.

Here's a similar graph for Indiana.

Credit: WHAS11

The dotted trend line showing the growth increasing in October on the right. 

Mask mandates in both states remain in place, but how effective are masks at limiting the spread?

WHAS11 took that question to the Regenstrief President and CEO Peter Embi. He is also a professor and assistant dean at Indiana University School of Medicine. 

"The kinds of masks that most of us wear, if you really look at it, and in a microscope, you know electron microscope you would see that, you know, sure, there are pores in there, where, where the virus can get through. But a lot of the virus that's sort of circulating does end up being attached to something else that makes it a bit larger and so it gets captured," Regenstrief President and CEO Peter Embi said.

Is it 100%? No, it's not, unless you're wearing the kind of masks that we do in the hospital.

The reason for the continued increase in cases could be that masks are not 100% effective.

Some people may not be following the guidance or wearing the masks properly, but as he points out, studies have found virus particles do get captured by masks.

"If you go outside and it's really cold and you wear a thin jacket, that's better than no jacket," Embi explains.

We are still learning about this virus and the impact of masks and you can help.

The Regenstrief Institute developed an app that allows you to help them collect data while protecting your privacy. 

That app is called MaskCount and it uses crowdsourcing to collect data about mask usage in your community.

Credit: Regenstrief