WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Studies show we use a whopping 129 billion face masks each month as a way to protect ourselves during the pandemic. Medical guidance claims those masks work, but opponents question the ability of a mask to limit COVID-19 transmission.

Some people claim those masks still allow viruses like COVID-19 to pass through the fabric, and even collect viruses and bacteria. Eyewitness News spoke with a local infectious disease expert for his take.

Are masks a legitimate means to protect you from viruses like COVID-19?

“It’s a good question,” Dr. Stan Martin, Geisinger Director of Infectious Diseases, said.

Dr. Martin says he was a little skeptical at first if masks would be effective in public spaces. But since the start of the pandemic, many studies made the same conclusion on just how helpful those masks can be.

“When you wear a mask in the indoor setting you will reduce your chances of getting infected and you will reduce the spread of the infection to others — and that is a fact, period.”

N95 masks are considered the gold standard, but even those blue surgical masks provide added protection from COVID according to the CDC. What about the claim masks cause the user to rebreathe carbon dioxide?

“They do not cause any medical problems for people. They do not raise the CO2 levels in your blood,” Dr. Martin said. “and you can go to OSHA and you can see the recommendations and guidelines on this and they will tell you they are, in fact, perfectly safe.”

Another myth Dr. Martin believes deserves debunking is that young children 2 and older should not wear masks.

“For most activities, wearing a mask isn’t the problem. I mean, being in school, being in a classroom, doing normal school activities a mask is not a barrier to learning. It is not a barrier to being a good student.”

Dr. Martin acknowledges the frustration of dealing with the pandemic, but urges everyone to take precautions — including wearing masks.

“We have to deal with this. And we know how to deal with it. The vaccine and masks. And if we do that, we will eventually get this under control.”

Masks are not recommended for children less than two because they have smaller airways. Dr. Martin also points out the risk of infection is significantly less if you choose to not wear a mask doing outdoor activities and not in a crowd.