Do we still need to wear masks outdoors?

Walking your dog, cycling, hiking, or picnicking with your family members or vaccinated friends are all activities where the risk of exposure to the virus is negligible. In these types of situations, you can keep a mask handy in your pocket if you are in a crowd or need to get inside.

“I think it’s kind of too much to ask people to put on their masks when they go for a walk, a jog or a bike ride,” he said. Dr. Muge Cevik, clinical lecturer of infectious diseases and medical virology at the School of Medicine of the University of St. Andrews from Scotland, where outdoor masking was never necessary. “We are in a different stage of the pandemic. I don’t think outdoor masks should have been mandated at all. There is no infection and transmission. “

“Let me run without a mask. Mask in his pocket “, he wrote on Twitter Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, infectious disease physician and medical director of the special pathogens unit at Boston Medical Center. “Given how conservative I have been in my views throughout the year, this should tell you how low the risk of short-term outdoor contact is generally – and even lower after vaccination. . Keep the masks on when you’re in a crowd and head inland. ”

To understand how low the risk of outdoor transmission is, researchers in Italy have used mathematical models to calculate the time it takes for a person to become infected outdoors in Milan. They imagined a gloomy scenario in which 10% of the population was infected with Covid-19. Their calculations showed that if a person avoided crowds, it would take, on average, 31.5 days of continuous outdoor exposure to inhale a dose of virus sufficient to transmit the infection.

“The results are that this risk is negligible in the open air if crowds and direct contact between people are avoided,” said Daniele Contini, lead author of the study and aerosol scientist at the Institute of Atmospheric and Climate Sciences in Lecce, Italy. .

Even though more infectious variants are circulating, the physics of outdoor viral transmission have not changed, and the risk of outdoor infection is still low, say virus experts. Pay attention to infection rates in your community. If the number of cases increases, the risk of meeting an infected person increases.

Dr. Cevik notes that debates about outdoor masking and articles depicting crowded beaches during the pandemic have left people with the wrong impression that parks and beaches are unsafe and have distracted attention from the much greater risks of indoor transmission. Often, indoor activities associated with outdoor fun – such as unmasking a subway or car trip or hiking in a pub after spending time on the beach – are the biggest risk. “People organize barbecues outdoors, but then spend time indoors, talking in the kitchen,” said Dr. Cevik.