CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mandatory face masks are a hot topic across the country when it comes to slowing the spread of COVID-19.
On Tuesday, Raleigh city leaders voted to require masks in public areas. Mecklenburg County leaders are considering a similar proposal, as is Governor Roy Cooper due to a spike in new cases that isn't exclusively related to an increase in testing.
A team of researchers at Texas A&M found that not wearing a mask dramatically increases your chance of getting coronavirus. The team looked at outbreaks in Wuhan, China, northern Italy and New York City during the study, and found once face masks became mandatory for residents, the rate of infections significantly dropped.
So why do masks make such a difference?
Researchers have found that aerosols, those tiny droplets of liquid in the air, are the primary way COVID-19 is being spread, not surface contact. Those tiny droplets don't just get in the air through coughing or sneezing. Just regular talking and breathing also spread aerosols.
Scientists say those droplets can travel tens of feet and can stay in the atmosphere for tens of minutes. All this research doesn't mean other methods of fighting COVID-19, like social distancing and contact tracing, aren't important, but for those methods to be more effective, they must be paired with face masks.