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Experts Warn Masks Can Give Some False Sense Of Security, Encourage People To Socially Distance

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The debate about whether to enforce masks or not has been going on for months in some areas, but now research suggests a simple face covering may not be enough.

"There's nothing that's perfect," said Brad Spellberg, the Chief Medical Officer at USC Medical Center and an infectious disease specialist.

He says the problem is that scientists know COVID-19 can be airborne and a mask can give some a false sense of security.

"If people act as though putting on a face mask gives them like Star Trek level shields...and they're now invulnerable to their environment, that's never true," Spellberg said.

In the world of viruses, there are those that transmit through droplets within six feet of someone contaminated and those that are airborne, but many are both.

"This was true of the original SARS 15 years ago, it's true for Influenza it's not surprising it's true of COVID-19 as well," Spellberg said.

Even California assemblymember Autumn Burke believes she was infected while wearing a mask indoors.

"I was shocked, disappointed and honestly heartbroken," Burke said.

A group of scientists are now encouraging the World Health Organization to amend its guidelines to reflect this risk.

In a letter they wrote that microdroplets of the virus can travel more than 30 feet.

"If you're in a crowded environment, if people are singing or shouting or raising their voices, you might experience conditions where microparticles are likely to be formed," Spellberg said.

Unfortunately, a face covering isn't foolproof. Experts say the best advice is to socially distance.

If you are inside, open windows and doors to increase the airflow and keep washing your hands.

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