Do people who contract COVID-19 despite wearing a mask experience milder symptoms than people who contract COVID-19 after not wearing a mask?

Last updated: February 20, 2022
Yes. Both studies in this list that examine the question agreed on this conclusion. Two studies are often not sufficient to be certain about a conclusion so we encourage you to refer to this study merely as food for thought.
This short answer was generated by aggregating the answers that each of the studies below gave to the question (as indicated by State of K members) and adjusting for source quality and other factors. If key studies are missing or the answers attributed to individual studies are incorrect, the above answer could be wrong. For medical questions, don't rely on the information here. Consult a medical professional.
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Chart summary of 2 studies examining this question

All answers are assigned by State of K users. The label Couldn't Identify means that State of K was not able to determine whether a study answers the question "yes" or "no". This could be due to several factors. One possibility is that a study found some evidence to indicate that the answer to the question is "yes" and some evidence to indicate that the answer is "no". This often happens when a study uses two or more proxies to study the same phenomenon (i.e. firearm sales figures and self-reported firearm ownership rates as proxies for the prevalence of firearms) and the proxies yield different results when looking for correlations with another phenomenon (i.e. firearm-related deaths). Alternatively, the label may be applied if the phenomenon under study (i.e. whether breast milk improves cognitive function) is true for one group, but not another (i.e. true for girls, but not for boys). Yet another possibility is that a study found there was insufficient evidence to reach a conclusion regarding the question. Finally, the full text or abstract of a study may not have been written clearly or was inaccessible. This would make it difficult to determine how a study answered a question.

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SUMMARIES OF STUDIES
Total studies in list: 2
Sorted by publication year
1
Facial Masking for Covid-19 — Potential for “Variolation” as We Await a Vaccine
"As SARS-CoV-2 continues its global spread, it’s possible that one of the pillars of Covid-19 pandemic control — universal facial masking — might help reduce the severity of disease and ensure that a greater proportion of new infections are asymptomatic. If this hypothesis is borne out, universal masking could become a form of “variolation” that would generate immunity and thereby slow the spread of the virus in the United States and elsewhere, as we await a vaccine."
AUTHOR
Monica Gandhi
PUBLISHED
2020 New England Journal of Medicine
Yes
Yes
2
Masks Do More Than Protect Others During COVID-19: Reducing the Inoculum of SARS-CoV-2 to Protect the Wearer
"Although the benefit of population-level public facial masking to protect others during the COVID-19 pandemic has received a great deal of attention, we discuss for one of the first times the hypothesis that universal masking reduces the “inoculum” or dose of the virus for the mask-wearer, leading to more mild and asymptomatic infection manifestations. Masks, depending on type, filter out the majority of viral particles, but not all. We first discuss the near-century-old literature around the viral inoculum and severity of disease (conceptualized as the LD50 or lethal dose of the virus). We include examples of rising rates of asymptomatic infection with population-level masking, including in closed settings (e.g., cruise ships) with and without universal masking. Asymptomatic infections may be harmful for spread but could actually be beneficial if they lead to higher rates of exposure. Exposing society to SARS-CoV-2 without the unacceptable consequences of severe illness with public masking could lead to greater community-level immunity and slower spread as we await a vaccine. This theory of viral inoculum and mild or asymptomatic disease with SARS-CoV-2 in light of population-level masking has received little attention so this is one of the first perspectives to discuss the evidence supporting this theory."
AUTHOR
Monica Gandhi
PUBLISHED
2020 Journal of General Internal Medicine
Yes
Yes