Friday marks the start of World Mask Week, running from Aug. 7 to 14, during which health organizations across the globe are encouraging everyone to wear face masks in public spaces to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Global Citizen has teamed up with the World Health Organization (WHO), the Pandemic Action Network, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), Google, Facebook, and many other organizations to rally behind the importance of wearing masks.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, launched the #WearAMask challenge at a press briefing on Aug. 3 by asking people to share photos and videos of themselves wearing masks on social media and to tag their friends.
We’re now encouraging Global Citizens to post selfies online wearing a mask too, as well as to take action by telling world leaders to lead by example and wear masks when in public.
As infection rates continue to increase in some countries around the world, mask-wearing is one of the best tools we have to protect one another. It’s especially important in places where social distancing isn’t possible — and while the wait for vaccines and treatments to be developed continues, according to a statement from the Pandemic Action Network.
.@WHO is launching a new #WearAMask challenge!— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) August 5, 2020
By wearing a mask, you are sending a message of solidarity and protecting other people, especially those most vulnerable to #COVID19.
Take a photo or a video of yourself wearing a mask, share it and nominate friends to do the same ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/Dv374xn10y
Mathematical modelling published by researchers from several international universities in April found that if masks were worn by 80% to 90% of the population, coupled with social distancing, it could eventually eliminate the disease.
Why Wearing a Mask Helps Stop the Spread of COVID-19
Face masks are a powerful tool because they block the spray of droplets from sneezing, coughing, talking, singing, or shouting when worn over the mouth and nose, the CDC explains.
Without a mask, droplets can land on the mouth or nose of nearby people, potentially leading to infection. Face masks therefore serve as barriers that help stop the spread of droplets travelling through the air.
Wearing a mask can help protect you and others, especially as some people might have the virus without knowing it. Studies referenced by the CDC show that a significant portion of people with COVID-19 don’t display symptoms — they are referred to as "asymptomatic." Even those who eventually will develop symptoms, meaning they are "pre-symptomatic," can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms themselves.
That means that even if you don’t have common signs of coronavirus, such as cough or high temperature, wearing a mask is still vital for protecting fellow citizens.
What Is the #WearAMask Campaign?
It’s not just about the public health benefits. We’re also encouraging Global Citizens to take action by telling leaders why it’s so important that they set clear guidelines on wearing them.
"We are proud to support World Mask Week as our supporters take action in every corner of the globe to push their leaders to adopt clear rules on wearing a mask in public," explained Michael Sheldrick, the chief policy and government affairs officer at Global Citizen.
"We also need global leaders to govern by example," he added. "When we all wear masks, citizens become more focused on listening to the guidance of the medical community, and together we are better suited to help save lives."
Eloise Todd, a co-founder of the Pandemic Action Network — a network of more than 40 health organizations driving collective action to bring an end to COVID-19 — agreed that politicians need to step up.
"Inconsistent policies on masking have caused confusion and there is mounting evidence that failing to wear masks is contributing to the spread of COVID-19," Todd said in a press release. "Leaders should make clear and consistent policies around the importance of wearing a mask outside the home when in public."
Who Else Is Backing the Campaign?
Media and tech companies are helping to spread the message too, by providing authoritative sources of information about face masks and why the measure is being promoted by experts.
"Google is committed to helping share one simple message: Wear a mask," Dr. Karen DeSalvo, the chief health officer at Google, said in the joint statement with the Pandemic Action Network, explaining that the new Google doodle this week will provide information about mask-wearing.
Facebook is also sharing the guidance on its platform, while the gaming industry, under an initiative called #PlayApartTogether, which since April has been encouraging gamers to follow public health advice like social distancing, is integrating World Mask Week messages and images into its games.
The WHO’s Dr. Tedros at the launch of the #WearAMask challenge, described wearing a mask as an act of solidarity with fellow citizens, as well as a tool in fighting infection rates.
"As well as hand sanitizer, I carry a mask with me all the time and use it when I’m in places where there are crowds," he said. "By wearing a mask, you’re sending a powerful message to those around you that we are all in this together."
The evidence is clear: Masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the more people wearing masks, the better.
You can join us to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the world's most vulnerable and marginalized communities by taking our Wear A Mask to Save Lives action here. You can also buy a mask from our merchandise store here — all money raised goes to our campaigning efforts.