Best Face Masks for COVID-19 Protection: Experts Weigh In
Best Face Masks for COVID-19 Protection
As the weather becomes hotter and hotter across the country, states and cities lift lockdown restrictions and people are going back to work, one might think that the worst of the COVID-18 pandemic has passed. Unfortunately, the novel coronavirus continues to hit the country hard, and the number of new cases is increasing day by day. (See the states with record spikes in new coronavirus cases).
This means we still need to tread with caution, wash our hand frequently (for at least 20 seconds), practice social distancing and wear face masks in places where physical distancing is not an option such as grocery stores or on public transportation.
Face masks have become an accessory as common as a pair of shades and, according to numerous health experts, they play a crucial part in protecting us against the spread of the virus. According to the CDC, recent studies suggest that many people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic. This means they can easily pass it on to other people before realizing they themselves have the virus.
More than that, the coronavirus can be spread from person to person through respiratory droplets released by sick people through coughing, sneezing or speaking. This further emphasizes the need to wear face masks.
The question is: does it matter what kind of face mask we wear? how efficient is each type of mask? Well, let’s see what health experts have to say about it.
“The most important thing is to buy a mask that will cover your nose and mouth,” says Michael Bell, MD, deputy director of the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “You don’t want big gaps on the sides. If there are gaps, you’ll be breathing around the mask and not through it, which doesn’t add any value. So, make sure the mask fits close to the sides of your face.”
Types of Face Masks
Different types of masks are appropriate for different situations and provide different levels of protection. For instance, healthcare workers treating and interacting directly with COVID-19 patients need professional masks intended for medical use such as N95 respirators. Such masks provide the highest level of protection because they have a tight seal and prevent the droplets from passing through or around the mask.
Other healthcare workers or first respondents not interacting directly with COVID-19 patients can use procedural, surgical and cloth face masks to prevent the spread and protect themselves against the virus. The general public is also advised to wear such masks. They may not fit the face snugly but as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggested, any covering, even a DIY one, is better than not wearing anything at all.
Dr. Teresa Amato, director of geriatric emergency medicine at Northwell Health recommends simple surgical masks. “In the beginning, we were kind of holding onto those for healthcare workers, but now we have a good supply of them,” she said. “They’re probably the most comfortable to wear. They’re very lightweight and they afford good protection.”
Siddhartha Verma, PhD, assistant professor at Florida Atlantic University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, explained that the most effective cloth masks seem to be the ones with multiple layers of quilting fabric.