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National Study Led By UNC Researchers Shows Masks Can Help Limit Spread Of Coronavirus

Major the Bull wears a protective facemark in the downtown plaza in Durham, N.C. Friday, March 27, 2020.
Chuck Liddy

Starting Friday, the city of Raleigh will be requiring face coverings in public. Durham and Orange counties have already implemented local requirements.

A national study involving researchers at UNC Chapel Hill shows masks can help limit the spread of the coronavirus. The research found the virus becomes established in the nose first. And covering the nose can contain the droplets that transmit it.

UNC professor of medicine Richard Boucher -- a lead author of the study -- believes wearing a mask should become a standard practice.

“You know, I think we're all in this together,” Boucher said. “We all travel around the state, so if we want to beat this thing down in the state, the whole state has to be on the same page.”

Governor Roy Cooper said Thursday he's considering how to get more people to wear face coverings, and cited a growing body of research connecting face coverings with lower coronavirus transmissions, but stopped short of saying whether he'd make it mandatory statewide.

"Clearly, we want people to wear face masks,” Cooper said. “We're looking for the most effective ways to do that."

The governor is expected to announce whether he'll update rules for business openings and activity next week.

On Thursday, North Carolina legislators sent another bill to Cooper designed to overturn parts of his executive order for COVID-19 that’s kept several types of retail businesses shuttered for months. The General Assembly finalized a measure to let bowling alleys, ice and roller rinks to reopen at a reduced capacity, with employees wearing masks, sanitizing equipment and enforcing social distancing. The bill also attempts to let restaurants within minor league ballparks — where seasons already are cancelled — serve larger groups of patrons for special events.

Cooper has already vetoed one measure that sought to reopen bars by letting them serve patrons outdoors. Another bill already on his desk would benefit gyms in addition to bars. Cooper has said he'll announce next week whether he'll ease further commerce limits when his current order expires June 26.

Elsewhere in North Carolina, the town of Knightdale in Wake County will start requiring face coverings in public spaces this Sunday at 5 p.m. Town officials say they want to do their part in helping to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

WUNC’s Rebecca Martinez and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Celeste Gracia covers the environment for WUNC. She has been at the station since September 2019 and started off as morning producer.
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