Early on in the pandemic, some sources seemed intent on sowing confusion over best practices. What their motivation was, one can only guess, but the result is that some people are still confused and feeling as though there's been a "back and forth" approach when the reality is that the experts have been aligned from the beginning and one thing is clear: mask use will help control the spread of the deadly virus. And it will save lives.
On June 5, 2020, the WHO released new guidelines on using masks to reduce COVID-19 transmission. The 16-page document is an update from the agency’s previous April 6 release, which, though it recommended all people wear masks, stressed the importance of sick people wearing masks and placed less emphasis on pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic transmission. The agency has become much clearer about this threat, and it’s taken a firmer stance on face coverings: Everyone should wear a mask when they go out.
COVID-19 can be transmitted via respiratory droplets, which may become airborne when an infected person coughs, sneezes or even breathes within a few feet of someone else. The virus can also settle onto surfaces, where it may survive long enough for other people to pick it up and transfer to vulnerable areas like the nose, mouth and the outer surface of the eyes (conjunctiva). So masks, by slowing the rate of droplets leaving the mouth and nose, can help reduce the viral load in the air and therefore reduce the number of virus particles on surfaces, but only if everyone does their part.
The problem is that far too few people are taking the importance of wearing masks seriously. Maybe they feel silly because they don't see others wearing them, or maybe they don’t realize that between 40% and 80% of transmissions occur from pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic contact. Or maybe they are falling victim to the early misinformation campaigns. Whatever their reasons, people who refuse to wear masks may well be a collective threat to their communities.
The materials a mask is made from and the tightness of the fit on the face are both important factors; getting either wrong will significantly reduce the mask’s effectiveness. The most current research suggests a combination of fabrics. The best seems to be making the mask from one layer of cotton along with two layers of polyester/spandex chiffon as the different types of layers are more effective than using one single fabric.
This is because different types of fabrics work in different ways to block virus particles: Cotton creates a physical barrier, while chiffon creates an electrostatic barrier. The combination of both offers a better chance of trapping more particles and therefore protecting everyone around us.
Face masks are essential to stopping this pandemic that feels like a runaway train. But for masks to work at their best, we all must assume we’re carriers and mask-up. It’s up to each of us to keep our germs to ourselves, and that means wearing a mask every time we go out in public. We can build toward a post-COVID world, but we must first do our part and that begins with caring for others and doing our part to protect our communities.
Copyright 2020, Wellness.com