Scientific Reports

Examining the interplay between face mask usage, asymptomatic transmission, and social distancing on the spread of COVID-19

Download paper


COVID-19’s high virus transmission rates have caused a pandemic that is exacerbated by the high rates of asymptomatic and presymptomatic infections. These factors suggest that face masks and social distance could be paramount in containing the pandemic. We examined the efficacy of each measure and the combination of both measures using an agent-based model within a closed space that approximated real-life interactions. By explicitly considering different fractions of asymptomatic individuals, as well as a realistic hypothesis of face masks protection during inhaling and exhaling, our simulations demonstrate that a synergistic use of face masks and social distancing is the most effective intervention to curb the infection spread. To control the pandemic, our models suggest that high adherence to social distance is necessary to curb the spread of the disease, and that wearing face masks provides optimal protection even if only a small portion of the population comply with social distance. Finally, the face mask effectiveness in curbing the viral spread is not reduced if a large fraction of population is asymptomatic. Our findings have important implications for policies that dictate the reopening of social gatherings.


06 Aug 2021


Scientific Reports