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ER doctor: Masks that don’t cover the nose more likely to spread COVID-19

While wearing face masks have been heavily regarded as an effective way to limit the spread of COVID-19, if worn incorrectly it may be pointless. (CDC)

While wearing face masks have been heavily regarded as an effective way to limit the spread of COVID-19, if worn incorrectly it may be unproductive. Health experts argue if masks are not covering one’s nose — often coined as the “coronavirus super spreader” — it’s more likely the virus will be transmitted. 

This comes just days after Salt Lake County released data showing lower COVID-19 cases after issuing a face mask mandate. 

Mayor Jenny Wilson said before the mask mandate took effect, the county accounted for 60% of Utah’s COVID-19 cases. Since the order, that number has dropped to 40% of the state’s cases in just two weeks. 

“Face coverings are one of the most effective ways to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said David Schuld, a leader of Salt Lake County’s COVID-19 response and recovery plan.  

Masks need to cover your nose to work

Emergency room doctor Frank McGeorge told NBC News not covering the nose can hasten the spread of the novel coronavirus, despite best intentions of wearing masks. This comes after several studies show noses house specific types of cells that are likely COVID-19 entry points. 

“The nose also appears to be better at spreading COVID-19,” McGeorge said in a video shared by the network demonstrating the proper way to use masks. “The cells that line the nose are significantly more likely to become infected and shed virus compared to the throat or lungs.”

A study from Science Daily identifies these cell types as goblet and ciliated cells. Scientists have found these cells contain high levels of entry points for COVID-19 to enter and infect the lungs. 

Experts say this explains the high rate of transmission. 

“That means every time a person exhales through their nose, they’re likely generating a higher concentration of infectious aerosol than if they were simply breathing from their mouth,” McGeorge said. 

In order to block that infectious cloud, he said, people must ensure their face mask covers the nose. 

These findings are in line with recommendations published from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention — which emphasize wearing a mask that covers from one’s nose to their chin. 

The CDC recommends all people who can to wear a mask in public when social distancing is not possible. This is because COVID-19 can be spread by those who do not exhibit symptoms and don’t know they’re infected, according to the organization.

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus spreads person to person, similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A 

Utah’s Coronavirus Information 

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States