What this combo of four actions does is establish a community expectation, a clear norm or standard for the community to follow. The norm shows everybody that the community expects them to wear the masks, that it takes masks seriously. That makes a big difference.
The researchers call their recommended program NORM:
Reinforcement in public places by intercepting non-mask wearers
Modelling and endorsement by trusted leaders
Here’s some useful mask info:
- All masks help, but 3-layer surgical masks and N95 masks offer greater protection.
- Double masking is good, especially with low-quality surgical or cloth masks.
- Masks should cover the mouth and nose. A tight fit on all four sides is good.
- If you touch the mask, you should wash your hands.
- Masks should be washed and replaced regularly.
- In general, you should wash your hands with soap several times a day.
A historical reminder might be relevant here: when we think about the Covid-19 vaccine, we often recall the big health breakthroughs of the past, such as the discovery of the polio vaccine in the 1950s, and penicillin in the 1940s.
But long before these headline-stealing medical heroes arrived to save the day, death rates had already dropped dramatically in Western Europe and North America. This health revolution came because of much less glamorous innovations: clean drinking water, efficient waste disposal, increased bathing, and expanded soap use.
These basic sanitary measures saved millions and millions of lives. In Nepal in 2021, basic preventative measures such as physicall distancing and careful mask wearing can save lives as well.
One other reminder: last year, after we were released from Lockdown I in July, Covid-19 infections spiked. After Lockdown II was lifted in September, infections spiked again, reaching their highest level yet. The end of Lockdown III will likely bring new risks.
Tom Robertson, PhD, is researching the environmental history of the Kathmandu Valley.