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Medical Face Masks

CDC Says Vaccinated Individuals Can Go Without Masks Indoors And Outdoors 

The director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this Thursday that people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 do not need to wear masks or practice social distancing indoors or outdoors, except under certain circumstances. 

“If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic. We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy.”

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Dr. Rochelle Walensky called this an “exciting and powerful moment. The science supports the updated CDC guidance that anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing.” She cited three studies — one from Israel and two from the United States — that show vaccines work.

The Israeli study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and showed “the vaccine was 97% effective against symptomatic Covid-19 and 86% effective against asymptomatic infection in over 5,000 healthcare workers tested.” 

In the more than 117 fully vaccinated Americans there have been a small number of reports of breakthrough infections, however, Walensky noted that “the resulting infections are more likely to have a lower viral load, may be shorter in duration, and likely less risk of transmission to others.” 

People who are immunocompromised should still proceed with caution, and all mask mandates are still in effect for all forms of public transportation, including air travel. 

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“The past year has shown us that this virus can be unpredictable, so if things get worse, there is always a chance we may need to make a change to these recommendations. People who develop Covid-19 symptoms, even those who are vaccinated, should put their mask back on and get tested, Walensky said.

She explained how: “the science is clear, too, for unvaccinated people. You remain at risk of mild or severe illness, of death, or spreading the disease to others. You should still mask and you should get vaccinated right away. But once someone is fully vaccinated — two weeks after the final dose — you can shed your mask,” she said.

Some people may choose to continue wearing masks even if they are fully vaccinated, and that’s OK, federal Covid-19 response leaders said Thursday.

“People have to make their own personal choice,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during the White House Covid-19 briefing.

“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with an individual who has a certain level of risk aversion, as we know the risk is extremely low of getting infected whether you’re indoors or outdoors. But there are those people who don’t want to take that bit of a risk and there’s nothing wrong with that and they shouldn’t be criticized.”

Woman Wearing Protective Face Mask

CDC Sets New General Guidelines For Covid-19 Protection 

The US Centers For Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance for navigating the Covid-19 pandemic as a means of updating and further emphasizing the importance of wearing a mask. The CDC made it clear in their guidelines that wearing a face mask doesn’t just protect you from the coronavirus, but everyone around you as well. 

“Adopting universal masking policies can help avert future lockdowns, especially if combined with other non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing, hand hygiene, and adequate ventilation.”

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Out of all of the policies that America has enacted right now as a means of curbing the spread of the Covid-19 virus, facial coverings and mask wearing is the number one way to prevent the spread of this disease when in a public setting. There have been multiple case studies that suggest the US can get their coronavirus numbers way down in a matter of weeks if every person wore a mask at all times when in public and only left their house for essential errands. 

“The prevention benefit of masking is derived from the combination of source control and personal protection for the mask wearer,” the CDC continued in their statement, explaining that “the relationship between source control and personal protection is likely complementary and possibly synergistic, so that individual benefit increases with increasing community mask use.”

Basically, the combination of you personally choosing to wear a mask every day when out in public and the general understanding that everyone else will do the same, will lead to a major decrease in new infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. It isn’t even an argument, as we’ve seen from a slew of other countries who had strict mask mandates that it truly does work in getting the numbers down. 

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“Studies demonstrate that cloth mask materials can also reduce wearers’ exposure to infectious droplets through filtration, including filtration of fine droplets and particles less than 10 microns,” the CDC continued; for reference 150 microns is roughly the width of a single strand of human hair. 

The agency continued to discuss how masks have various degrees of effectiveness based on the type of mask it is. “Multiple layers of cloth with higher thread counts have demonstrated superior performance compared to single layers of cloth with lower thread counts, in some cases filtering nearly 50% of fine particles less than 1 micron,” they said. 

The CDC went on to discuss how if you’re looking to order masks online, see if you can find ones made up of materials like polypropylene, which works as a binding tool for cloth particles that will further improve the effectiveness of how well your mask filters out air. Silk masks are a prime example of this, as the material works to “repel moist droplets and reduce fabric wetting to maintain breathability and comfort.”

Cloth masks in general are extremely protective in terms of blocking large droplets and the exhalation of finer droplets. Most cloth masks can block up  to 70% of all fine droplets, and according to the CDC in some studies they’ve performed on par with surgical masks.

How President-Elect Joe Biden Plans To Fight The Covid-19 Pandemic

Citizens of the US can expect a national mask policy, increase in Covid-19 testing sites, and the possibility of a nationwide lockdown once President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January. The Biden-Harris campaign laid out a step-by-step plan for addressing the pandemic which includes a detailed list of new policies, protections, and processes that will help frontline workers and the American people curb the spread and hopefully minimize the amount of new cases/hospitalizations. 

The campaign also announced its own specific Covid-19 advisory board co-chaired by former FDA Commissioner Dr. David Kessler, former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and  Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, the associate dean for health equity research at the Yale School of Medicine. The timing of this transition of power couldn’t have come at a better time, as the US has surpassed 100,000 new Covid-19 cases a day all last week, projecting a very difficult winter for the nation. 

While potential vaccines around the world are showing great promise in their ability to combat and protect against Covid-19, the process and time it will take to widely distribute those vaccines is too uncertain not to start making changes now. Biden has also said he would be listening to scientists like Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who current President Trump has demonized throughout the pandemic. 

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“I would be prepared to do whatever it takes to save lives. In order to keep the country running and moving and the economy growing, and people employed, you have to fix the virus. I would shut it down. I would listen to the scientists.”

Up until now the Trump administration has allowed state governments to decide whether or not they wanted to shut down, reopen, impose mask requirements, and purchase their own testing materials and personal protective gear. This has led to America being one of the most infected countries in the world that has seen little to no improvement in terms of case numbers and deaths dropping. As of today there have been over 10 million cases and 238,000 deaths in the US. 

Biden’s plan will call for a coordinated national strategy that would use the Defense Protection Act to actually ensure the US has all the proper healthcare equipment it needs to handle the rest of this pandemic. Testing sites will also likely double throughout the county, and at-home testing will be made more widely available. Biden also claims that he would establish a US public health job corps to “mobilize at least 100,000 Americans across the country to support contact tracing efforts, which has largely been left for the states to arrange, and assist populations at higher risk.”

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It’s unclear how it will be executed, but Biden will likely also call for a national mask requirement in all public settings/spaces. It will likely start with masks being required in all federal buildings and interstate transportation systems. The CDC will also be directed to provide communities with all the evidence-based guidance they have for combatting the virus. The CDC will also have more of a say in terms of school and business reopenings, as well as stay-at-home orders nationwide. Dr. Howard Koh is a professor at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the former assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama administration who recently spoke with the press about how hopeful he was for the future of this pandemic under the Biden administration. 

“I would expect that under President Biden, he would reinstitute regular briefings with Fauci, galvanized by the White House, but empowering the top scientists to convey their knowledge and guidance on behalf of the American people.”

Biden will also repair the damaged relationship that’s been created between the US and the World Health Organization. His administration hopes that the American people will see this pandemic is not political, and every move and decision that will be made will be based on science and with the greater interest of the American people’s health and safety at heart. 

Experts also expect that by the time Biden takes office there will likely be initial doses of a coronavirus vaccine made available to priority populations like health-care workers. The initial plan there would involve how to distribute and manage the administering of the vaccine when it first appears, so for now America will have to continue to wait as these policies and treatments come to life.

US To Hit 8 Million Covid-19 Cases As Daily Rates Of Infection Surpass 50,000

Experts are warning for a tough and long winter in the US as daily Covid-19 infections surpass 50,000 and the death toll nears 220,000.

Friends Wearing Masks

How To Protect Yourself From Covid-19 

The coronavirus pandemic has been truly unpredictable to say the least. The way it travels, spreads, and reacts inside of our bodies has proven to be unexpected, however, if one thing has remained common throughout the past six months it’s been the universal desire to find a vaccine, and curve the overall spread of the virus. So what are some of the most effective proven ways to help prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus?

First we need to best understand how this virus moves, which is difficult considering even the world’s smartest scientists are still trying to work that out. The World Health Organization was recently confronted by over 200 scientists from over 30 countries who were urging the organization to acknowledge the possible role of airborne transmission, to which they complied. 

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“Under certain conditions short-range aerosol transmission, particularly in specific indoor locations, such as crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces over a long period of time with infected persons cannot be ruled out.” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recently acknowledged the possibility of airborne transmission on their website, claiming that Covid-19 can spread “through respiratory droplets or small particles, such as those in aerosols, produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks or breathes. These particles can be inhaled into the nose, mouth, airways and lungs and cause infection. This is thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”

Both the CDC and WHO have acknowledged, however, that these repertory droplets are more likely to cause infection from landing on certain shared surfaces that are then touched by other individuals. The haziness surrounding the airborne quality of this virus has also been focused on less due to the fact that mask-wearing is the most effective way to combat that. If you go out in public, wear a facial covering and then get clean immediately upon returning home, you’re likely to be safe. 

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When in an indoor setting, it’s best if you remain as distanced as possible from others who aren’t a part of your quarantine bubbles. Go even further than 6 feet apart when possible, and wear a face mask if you’re hanging around individuals who you haven’t seen. Improve ventilation by keeping all windows open and use devices like air purifiers, dehumidifiers, and fans to keep the air circulating between the indoor and outdoor spaces. 

Group activities in general should always be outside, and every individual should be wearing a mask unless a proper physical distance between everyone is possible. Facial coverings are the biggest and most effective solution to curbing the spread of this virus as we’ve seen evidence of all around the world. 

It’s also important to ensure you’re wearing the right type of facial covering and wearing it correctly. Fabric masks should be thick enough that when you hold it up to the sun you can’t see the light shine through it. Most disposable masks available at your local drug store or gas station are effective as long as you’re getting rid of them after each use. Finally, make sure your mask is completely covering your nose, and if you’re going out with your kids, make sure they also have a mask. Many individuals have become more relaxed when it comes to their children wearing masks because it’s less likely that a young child/toddler will contract the virus, however, that doesn’t mean they can’t still bring it into your home and infect others, so keep everyone in your house safe and mask up.

Regardless of the proven science, we all know that the Covid-19 virus spreads easily and quickly when given the opportunity. Wearing a mask at all times when in a public space, maintaining a distance of at LEAST six feet from individuals not in your quarantine bubble, and remaining outdoors for any and all group activities will help keep this virus at bay, and your loved ones healthy.

Contract Tracing

Contact Tracers In Ireland Express Concern Over Future Outbreaks 

Contact tracers in Ireland have been working tirelessly since the pandemic began to make calls to individuals who are sick and trace possible public areas of exposure. Eamonn Gormley, a tracer working at the University College of Dublin described the extremely disheartening work that they do to the media recently, claiming that the sick individuals they talk to often sound worried about their health and fear for their loved ones that they may have infected. 

“In a lot of cases people were suffering from extreme physical distress, one person I talked to collapsed on the floor and we could hear them gasp for air.” 

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Gormely claims that calls like that are rather rare, but still stick with you. Contact tracers, in general, have the responsibility of notifying individuals who have tested positive for Covid-19 and getting as much information from them as possible in regards to what public spaces they entered within the time-frame of infection. 

In Ireland specifically, many infected people are revealing a multitude of locations they were in close contact with others in, and it’s raising some major concerns. Locations such as pubs, homes, schools, salons, and planes have all been listed recently from Irish individuals who are currently suffering from the coronavirus. 

Ireland saw a steady decrease in case numbers throughout the months of June and July, however, in August numbers began to rise by the hundreds. Within the past month the country saw 2,077 new cases appear; in total they’ve recorded around 31,800 infections and 1,800 deaths. The biggest concern at the moment, however, is the number of individuals that infected patients are claiming to have been around prior to being tested. 

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According to UCD’s tracing center, the average number of individuals a Covid-19 patient has claimed to be in close contact with is 10. Some patients have disclosed they’ve been around 25, 30, even 50 other people before receiving their results. The largest number so far has been 83 close contacts, according to Gormely.

Ireland is joining a growing list of European countries all experiencing major spikes in case numbers. Philip Nolan, the chair of the Irish Epidemiological Modeling Advisory Group, recently claimed that he’s greatly concerned over the lack of action in response to these spikes. 

“Case numbers appear to be growing exponentially and are likely to double every 10 to 14 days if every one of us does not immediately act to break chains of transmission of the virus.” 

Ireland has around 280 active contact tracers with hundreds more on standby. Over 1,000 calls are made every single day from centers located all throughout the country. In one center, the campus has 70 tracers spread out in three rooms. 20 of the tracers in that particular center are environmental health officials and the rest are volunteers. 

Tracers have a very specific code of conduct as well that bars them from expressing any judgement to those who have broken any quarantine rules of health and safety procedures. The goal is not to reprimand, but to gather as much information as possible so that individuals who need to quarantine, do. With the help of a new app as well, tracing has become even easier for these tracers as they continue to navigate this unpredictable pandemic. 

Delta Airline on Screen

Delta Among Airlines Adding Passengers Who Refuse To Wear Masks To No-Fly List

Travelling anywhere during the coronavirus pandemic poses a certain level of risk, but getting on a plane especially is cause for taking as many precautions as possible. Many airlines have begun implementing mandatory health and safety procedures such as social distancing markers within all airports, requiring facial coverings at all times, and removing middle seat options from being purchased.

For the most part, major airlines throughout the US are taking these procedures seriously and mandating them within all locations. Delta, specifically, wants their customers to understand how important these policies are, and have gone so far as to place people on the no-fly list for refusing to wear a mask while on board. 

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Delta CEO Ed Bastian recently spoke with the media about the company’s mask policy, claiming that while some consumers may think being added to the no-fly list is “excessive,” they believe health and safety is number one priority always. 

“We’ve been… steadily and rather aggressively stepping up our enforcement of the mask policy. If you board the plane and you insist on not wearing your mask, we will insist that you don’t fly Delta into the future.”

The airline has had this policy implemented since the beginning of this pandemic, however, they only recently began seriously enforcing it as a part of their “Clearance-to-Fly” program. This program requires all passengers who claim to have medical conditions that exempt them from wearing a mask to go through a lengthy process to get pre-approval, however, the airline more so suggests that if you are one of these individuals, to stay home and not get on any sort of plane. 

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Delta began blocking out middle seat ticket listings to restrict airplane capacity in May, and is planning on continuing this until at least the end of September, however, it’s more dependent on how much worse the pandemic gets within the next two months. Bastian claims that all planes are also consistently sanitized between flights and layovers. 

“I know there’s a lot of anxiety in the general public — and even for road warriors who have been out flying for years — their first time back, there’s a level of angst that they need almost be walked through the process.”

Bastian claims that while he’s ready for traditional airline travel to resume, he knows that a vaccine is the only thing that will make everyone feel comfortable getting on a plane again, as he feels the same way. “We need some medical confidence back in consumers and continue to restore confidence in air travel.”

Southwest Airlines is one of the more recent companies to require all passengers wear a mask with no exceptions; regardless of any medical conditions that may prevent someone from wearing one. They claim if you have an illness severe enough to hinder your ability to wear a mask, you shouldn’t be getting on a plane in the middle of a global health crisis in general. 

American and United airlines also claimed that they would temporarily ban passengers from flying on their planes if they refuse to wear a mask on board like Delta.

Woman Wearing Face Mask

CDC Director Offers Covid-19 Update, Urges Citizens To Wear Their Masks

Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in America has recently delivered a Covid-19 update in which he claimed that the outbreak could be controlled across the nation within 4-6 weeks if people were more strict about wearing their masks. According to Redfield over half of the states in America are currently spiking at a faster rate than they had been in the spring. 

Johns Hopkins University has been collecting national data on Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. As of this week, they reported that the US has surpassed 3.4 million positive cases of the coronavirus with over 136,000 deaths. Globally there have been about 13.3 million cases and almost 580,000 deaths; meaning the US accounts for around 24% of all covid-related deaths. 

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Redfield consistently was emphasizing that disciplined use of facial coverings, social distancing, and hand washing can dramatically decrease the rate in which this virus spreads, however, this isn’t new information. The biggest issue now is enforcing these policies that so many Americans are actively ignoring because their state governments are telling them it’s okay to be out in public again through the reopenings. 

“If all of us would put on a face covering now for the next four weeks to six weeks, we could drive this epidemic to the ground in this country.”

Redfield went on to discuss other aspects of the pandemic as well, specifically how the Trump administration is now implementing a new directive that requires all hospitals to bypass the CDC when it comes to sending Covid-19 related data to the government. Instead, the data is to be sent directly to the Department of Health and Human Services. 

For reference, the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network has been the number one source of information in terms of all things coronavirus related. This includes data on things like hospital bed numbers, ventilator use/availability, and personal protective equipment (PPEs). Now, the administration claims the new system will streamline the collection of these important stats and the CDC will still be able to have access to the information, they just won’t get it first. 

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Finally, the CDC announced that pharmaceutical company Moderna Inc. is currently in the early stages of a trial for a Covid-19 vaccine that’s showing successful results. The vaccine has proven to trigger an immune response within the body, however, it’s still too early to tell if that immune response is strong enough to actually protect someone from contracting the Covid-19 virus. 

Moderna’s chief medical officer Dr. Tal Zaks recently spoke with the media about the vaccine that’s technical name is mRNA-1273. Zaks claims that while we don’t have all the data yet, so far all indications prove the vaccine to be safe and effective. 

“The levels of protective antibodies produced by the trial participants were similar to those found in patients who had recovered from COVID-19, suggesting that the candidate vaccine provides the same protection as an infection.”

In the meantime, it’s recommended that we all continue to listen to the CDC and all of our country’s healthcare providers when they tell us the most effective ways to curve the spread of this virus. If we want a chance at returning to a life of normalcy, it’s imperative that we wear our masks in public, continue to social distance, and wash our hands as often as possible.

Fireworks

Major US Cities Making Adjustments To Their Fourth Of July Firework Displays

The Fourth of July is often celebrated with backyard barbecues, American flags, and of course, fireworks. However, this year the coronavirus pandemic has created a major obstacle for many fourth of July celebrations. Many major American cities that are known for their massive annual displays have already made announcements for what they plan to do this year to ensure spectators remain healthy and safe while still enjoying sparks light up the night sky.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall cancelled the city’s firework shows that typically take place in Jordan and Liberty Park and instead is asking residents to decorate their homes in red, white, and blue. Residents will be able to light their own fireworks from July 2nd to July 5th between the hours of 11 a.m. and 11 p.m., according to the Salt Lake City fire department.

Chicago cancelled its annual fireworks show at the Navy Pier but the city is still planning on maintaining some level of safe celebration. The city itself is hosting an at-home salsa dance class, a virtual house music festival, and a virtual Independence Day Salute concert accompanied by a professional orchestra for multiple ways of celebrating.

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“While we all reflect on America’s promise of freedom and justice and its painful legacy of racial injustice, I invite Chicagoans to commemorate this year’s holiday with family and close friends, connected with our city and people across our country through the healing power of music,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

In Washington D.C., the nation’s capital is still planning to have some celebrations this year, although the National Independence Day Parade has been cancelled. “A Capitol Fourth” will be hosting a pre-recorded 90 minute program on PBS at 8 p.m. on the fourth as opposed to their normal annual live show in the U.S. Capitol’s West Lawn.

The White House also released a statement in which they said their national “Salute to America” will take place on the South Lawn and feature music, military demonstrations, and flyovers to honor the nation’s service members and first responders who have been battling this pandemic on the front lines.

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Las Vegas is continuing on with plans of multiple firework displays, including one at the famous Red Rock Resort. The event will also be live streamed on the resorts website and social media pages so that anyone can enjoy the show from the comfort of quarantine. The Red Rock Resort parking lot will also be open for spectators who want to see the display in person with social distancing measures enforced.

Los Angeles in general has been setting off fireworks mysteriously every night amid the massive protests for social justice; the same occurrences have been happening in New York City and other major metropolitans as well. The city itself, however, is still planning to continue on with their annual Independence Day shows, but will likely be reduced to only last for 15 minutes maximum.

Finally, New York City recently got word from Macy’s that the retail giant would be setting off 5-minute firework displays in all five boroughs of the city over multiple nights, starting on June 29th.

“Each display will launch from one or two unannounced land or water-based locations across New York City. The final display sites were chosen because they could safely accommodate the launch and firing of large-scale pyrotechnics,” according to city officials.

Regardless of how you plan to celebrate this year, it’s of the utmost importance that we all collectively continue to listen to the world’s healthcare workers and abide by social distancing measures. If you’re planning on attending a firework show in person that is projected to attract a large crowd, wear a face covering, stand at least six feet apart from everyone, and make sure to sanitize/clean yourself properly after you return home.

Protective Face Mask

Scientists Offer Advice On What To Look For In A Face Mask

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.

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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.

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“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.