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Hashimoto Makes the Case for Masks

Reviewers call professor's new book a "compelling manifesto advocating universal masking" and a useful tool for all Americans.

Photograph by Caitlin Cunningham

The information reservoir regarding Covid-19 public safety precautions gained valuable depth October 27 with the release of The Case for Masks: Science-based Advice for Living During the Coronavirus Pandemic by Boston College Law School Associate Professor Dean Hashimoto.

Hashimoto teaches health care policy at the Law School and is the chief medical officer overseeing the Workplace Health and Wellness division at Mass General Brigham, a Harvard Medical School-affiliated system. His book presents up-to-date research, highlighting the importance of wearing masks in public and the impact such precautions have on saving lives and halting this pandemic.

In The Case for Masks, Hashimoto cites specific examples of situations where infected individuals wore masks versus ones who didn’t and how that changed the outcome. He also references population-based studies in individual states and by country, and the undeniable effect that universal masking had on Mass Brigham Hospital’s staff of 75,000, according to his publisher, Skyhorse Publishing.

Hashimoto explains the complementary roles of social distancing, washing hands, coronavirus testing, and face shields, and provides a thorough exploration of what kinds of masks are most effective at stopping the spread of viruses and how they should be fitted and worn.

Bringing to bear his experiences in science, public health, medicine, policy, and law—he holds degrees in all of those disciplines from Stanford, Berkeley, Harvard, USC-San Francisco, and Yale—Hashimoto addresses safety concerns and medical misconceptions about mask wearing, why the CDC didn’t recommend universal mask wearing at the beginning of the pandemic, and how employers can promote mask wearing in their workplaces.

The book arrives at a time of serious need, as the number of coronavirus cases in the United States is rising exponentially. Pandemic-related deaths in the United States now exceed 244,000, according to Johns Hopkins University, and the Covid Track Report is currently recording more than 1,000 additional deaths per day.

The Case for Masks has received favorable reviews within the medical community, in part because of its practical instructions to the general public. “Hashimoto’s clear, accessible, jargon-free prose cuts through conflicting media reports on the pros and cons of masks. It tells you when and how to wear a mask. It gives everyday guidance for how to thrive in the coronavirus pandemic. I recommend it highly,” said Philip J. Landrigan, director of the Program for Global Public Health and the Common Good at Boston College and former division director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health.

Read more about the book in BC News.