ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Governor Kathy Hochul has been heavily criticized for reimplementing a mask requirement for everyone over the age of two in New York starting Monday. Feelings on personal freedom aside, studies show masks do prevent people from catching and spreading COVID.

Researchers had known wearing masks prevents the transmission of airborne illnesses like the flu but there was some hesitation to make that the same claim about COVID with absolute certainty because they had not been able to study it over so many years. They had an inkling that masks were a useful tool in preventing the spread of COVID yet needed science to back them up.

It all comes down to droplets, explains the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). When we breathe, talk or cough droplets enter the air. Larger droplets sink while smaller droplets hover in the air. Therefore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has pushed for handwashing, use of sanitizer, mask-wearing, and social distancing to try and control the spread of COVID.

It’s been two years since COVID made its way into the U.S. and a lot has been learned about the virus. Especially how it transmits and the effectiveness of masks and vaccines. The EPA website holds a crucial piece of information that has largely not been talked about- the six-foot rule may not be enough to keep people from getting the virus.

“Transmission of COVID-19 from inhalation of virus in the air can occur at distances greater than six feet,” the EPA said. “Particles from an infected person can move throughout an entire room or indoor space. The particles can also linger in the air after a person has left the room – they can remain airborne for hours in some cases.”

The CDC has been keeping a watch over research on the use of face masks to reduce COVID spread. They list a variety of studies from the U.S. as well as other countries where the effectiveness of wearing a face mask was irrefutable. The CDC’s website was last updated on December 6.

“The prevention benefit of masking is derived from the combination of source control and wearer protection. The relationship between source control and wearer protection is likely complementary and possibly synergistic, so that individual benefit increases with increasing community mask use,” the CDC said.

A study released in January concluded that masks- whether surgical or non-surgical- could significantly reduce the number of infections if most of the population wore one in public spaces:

Models suggest that public mask wearing is most effective at reducing spread of the virus when compliance is high. We recommend that mask use requirements are implemented by governments, or, when governments do not, by organizations that provide public-facing services. Such mandates must be accompanied by measures to ensure access to masks, possibly including distribution and rationing mechanisms so that they do not become discriminatory. Given the value of the source control principle, especially for presymptomatic people, it is not sufficient for only employees to wear masks; customers must wear masks as well.

An evidence review of face masks against COVID-19

These revelations add credibility to Gov. Hochul’s mask requirement to prevent a further rise in cases. Especially over the holidays as cases associated with Thanksgiving gatherings continue to increase across the state as of Tuesday.