ST. LOUIS — Medical doctors, researchers, government leaders up to the President of the United States are saying: wear a mask, because it's one of the ways we can keep from spreading the coronavirus. That's why they're mandated in St. Louis, St. Louis County, and Illinois.
But if you have your mask pulled under your chin or only covering your mouth, you might as well not even be wearing it, according to a study published in the science journal, Cell.
The study maps the best route for the virus into, around, and out of our bodies, and determined the path of least resistance is the nose: it's the "initial site of infection," and where they found the highest concentration of infected cells in COVID-19 patients.
That means when you exhale out of your nose, you could be spreading more of the virus than exhaling through your mouth, and it highlights the importance of making sure your mask fits snug over your nose, keeping potentially infected particles from being released into the air.
While we primarily wear masks to prevent spreading COVID-19 to others, the study suggests covering your nose could help protect you, too.
"Although speculative, if the nasal cavity is the initial site mediating seeding of the lung via aspiration, these studies argue for the widespread use of masks to prevent aerosol, large droplet, and/or mechanical exposure to the nasal passages," reads the study's summary of findings.
The St. Louis County Health Department released a memo underscoring the study’s findings Friday, including reminders to wash or sanitize your hands before taking off and putting on your mask, and wash cloth masks or replace surgical masks between uses.