Face mask use in the general population and optimal resource allocation during the COVID-19 pandemic

Colin J Worby, Hsiao-Han Chang

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22nd April 20

The ongoing novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has already infected millions worldwide, and with no vaccine available, interventions to mitigate transmission are urgently needed. While there is broad agreement that travel restrictions and social distancing are beneficial in limiting spread, recommendations around face mask use are not consistent. Here, we use epidemic modeling to examine the epidemiological impact of face masks, considering resource limitations and a range of supply and demand dynamics. Even with a limited protective effect, face masks can reduce total infections and deaths, and can delay the peak time of the epidemic. However, random distribution of masks was generally suboptimal; prioritized coverage of the elderly improved outcomes, while retaining resources for detected cases provided further mitigation under a range of scenarios. Face mask use, particularly for a pathogen with relatively common asymptomatic carriage, is an effective intervention strategy, while optimized distribution is important when resources are limited.

Read in full at medRxiv.

This is an abstract of a preprint hosted on an independent third party site. It has not been peer reviewed but is currently under consideration at Nature Communications.

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Nature Research, Springer Nature