Outdoor mask use could protect others, says widow

Ella Pickover
·3-min read

The widow of a man who died from Covid-19 has described how she wears a mask outdoors to help prevent other families from “similar trauma”.

Amy Price, who is a patient editor of the medical journal The BMJ, said she hoped that mask wearing would help protect vulnerable people from the virus.

She described how her husband was admitted to hospital with a broken leg and spent four weeks in hospital before catching the virus.

“He was alone from the ambulance trip until he died,” Ms Price wrote.

“None of us were allowed to visit even once.

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“In the hope that it protects other families from similar trauma, I wear a mask in public – indoors and outside – as well as physically distancing, avoiding crowds, and washing my hands regularly.”

In a commentary published in the journal, she wrote: “When we run, talk, cough, or sneeze, respiratory droplets are released into the air.

“This is why I wear a mask even outside, wherever people might follow me – for example, in the parking lot, on a city street, or in a queue.

“Regular mask wearing both inside and outside can help us protect each other by reducing spread at the source, even when we don’t know that we’re infected.”

She added: “Wearing a mask doesn’t mean that you are weak or cowardly. It’s a way to protect vulnerable people around you.

“I am vaccinated, yet I wear a mask whether I’m inside or outside, in solidarity with people who are still vulnerable.”

Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur – Carabao Cup Final – Wembley Stadium
Experts have debated the use of masks outdoors (PA)

It comes as experts debated the issue in another article published in the journal.

Babak Javid, from the University of California San Francisco, and colleagues acknowledge that the risk of Covid-19 virus transmission is far greater indoors than outdoors.

But they said that wearing masks outdoors, particularly at large outdoor gatherings with prolonged close interactions, should be normalised because it may reduce virus transmission and encourage mask wearing indoors, where risks are greater.

“We argue that wearing masks outdoors, particularly at large outdoor gatherings such as sporting events or other settings where it will be difficult to maintain physical distance for prolonged periods, which may have a low but measurable risk of seeding a superspreading event – as well as normalising mask wearing behaviour in general – will bring benefits in reducing risks during the pandemic phase of Covid-19,” they wrote.

But Dr Muge Cevik, from the University of St Andrews, and colleagues argue that outdoor transmission contributes very little to overall infection rates.

They wrote: “Outdoor transmission risk for Sars-CoV-2 is substantially lower than in indoor environments.

“Less than 10% of reported Covid-19 cases involve outdoor transmission, and those are typically associated with prolonged close interactions or settings where people mix both indoors and outdoors. Moreover, no confirmed sizeable Covid-19 clusters or ‘superspreader’ events have been outdoors-only.”

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