As Missouri lifts all coronavirus-related state restrictions, state cases continue to ebb and flow. The latest numbers by the state health department shows nearly 17,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in Missouri and nearly 900 deaths.

It is important to note the coronavirus is still spreading. As Missourians become more active outside of home, social distancing and wearing face coverings remain key to mitigating risk of infection. A study by Cambridge and Greenwich universities suggests that face masks are more helpful in mitigating COVID-19 spread, than previously realized, and have the potential to prevent future outbreaks.

According to scientists, the virus reproduction number, or the average number of people who will contract it from one infected person, must drop below 1.0. Researchers believe to achieve that threshold, a combination of lockdowns, coupled with masking, would provide the best defense.

It is safe to say that a second lockdown will be met with resistance. That is why health experts continue to admonish the public to social distance as much as possible and wear a mask. “We show that when face masks are used by the public all of the time, (not just from when symptoms first appear), the effective reproduction number can be decreased below 1, leading to the mitigation of epidemic spread,” the scientists wrote in a recently published paper.

They also included the masks do not have to be surgical grade, noting that homemade masks that catch 50% of exhaled airborne respiratory droplets provide a “population-level benefit.”

Masks are worn to protect others. Experts continue to ask the public to consider the greater good by wearing a mask. The bottom line is the coronavirus is still in full effect.

“Our analyses support the immediate and universal adoption of face masks by the public,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Richard Stutt.