Face masks have become a mandatory addition to everyone’s wardrobe as the world continues to battle the Covid-19 pandemic. Currently, the overall scientific consensus is that face masks are the simplest way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and both the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend wearing cloth face covering to protect yourself when in public. However, as the pandemic continues to grow and new information is released in terms of health and safety procedures, some are confused as to the best means of wearing a mask in public. So what do you need to know?
Unless you’re under the age of 2, have a medical condition, or are able to stand at least 6 feet away from other people, you should be wearing a mask at all times according to the guidelines released by the CDC and WHO. Respiratory droplets – tiny bits of spit and other materials that are expelled from your mouth – have been confirmed as the main means of transmitting Covid-19 from person-to-person.
If you’re carrying the virus, it can attach itself easily to these droplets and thus easily spread throughout the air once expelled. A mask literally physically blocks those droplets from leaving the vicinity of your mouth. Obviously, one could still contract the virus through touch as well, but by covering your mouth, you’re reducing your risk substantially.
In the argument over disposable or reusable masks, you really can’t go wrong, but if you go the reusable route, make sure the material is thick enough to actually block any droplets from spreading. Disposable masks should only be worn once, which isn’t the best for the environment, however, many agree that the disposable surgical masks are much easier to breathe in when compared to a cloth mask; it’s really a matter of preference.
According to scientists who performed a study testing the best materials to make reusable masks out of, they found that it was less about the type of fabric, and more about the quality of it. Higher quality fabrics have a tighter weave and thicker thread, so they do a much better job at containing any droplets or germs. However, as mentioned cloth masks can tend to be less breathable when compared to the disposable ones.
“A rule of thumb, hold the material up to a bright light. Look at the light coming through the fabric. If it outlines individual fibers and you can see the light through fabric, it’s probably not as effective. The less of that you can see, the better the filter,” said Dr. Scott Segal.
Researchers also found that two layers of masks are better than one, and three does a better job than two, in fact, in their specific guidelines the WHO recommends a minimum of three layers, so many mask manufacturers have begun implementing that rule into their production. Again, breath-ability is a factor so if you’re making the mask yourself, don’t go overboard with the layering to the point that you can barely breathe, and follow Segal’s rule of thumb in terms of light.
There are many types of masks as well on the market. The most effective ones must cover both your nose and mouth, and form a rather snug fit along the edges. Professional grade masks like the N95 respirator are the only guaranteed means of getting a mask with a proper seal along the edge, however, a perfect fit is not a requirement as long as your mouth and nose remain covered.
Regardless of what type of mask you own, the most important thing to remember is to always wear it when out in public. Continue to listen to the nation’s healthcare professionals and guidelines brought on by the CDC and WHO.