Masking — along with social distancing, hand washing, and other so-called “non-pharmaceutical interventions” (NPIs) — proved very effective at limiting the spread of COVID-19, and simultaneously drove down rates of endemic diseases like colds, flu, RSV and others. This prompted infectious disease researchers to ask whether longer-term implementation could reduce flu and RSV outbreak over the long term. It depends, reports a team of Princeton University researchers in new study published Nov. 29 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Our results show that interventions such as mask-wearing and social distancing are effective at limiting the spread of respiratory disease,” said lead author Rachel Baker, who recently joined the faculty at Brown University as an assistant professor of epidemiology and environment and society. “However, the strong reductions in cases of endemic diseases, such as RSV and influenza, that we saw during the pandemic may not last if these measures were implemented long-term. It depends on the underlying biology of the disease.” To read the full story.