As we continue thru this COVID-19 masks will remain a vital and important necessity. The 101 basics and understanding masks is not something that is readily available or shared.
As a safety engineer, I have studied just about every form of safety including masks. There is a lot of talk about the N95 mask. The N95 mask requires it to be fit and worn correctly. It needs to fully sealed and then you are filtering thru the mask. If you have any facial hair it prevents the mask from working properly and you must be clean shaven. There are many things one needs to know about how to safely use the N95 mask.
Considering other mask options, there are the more common paper type of mask you might wear normally during flu or cold season, as my wife and I do. They are a good preventive measure, but are a one use mask! During COVID-19 we are taking extra precautions and paying more attention to masks.
Protecting Each Other
Who does a mask provide protection for? Many say it’s to keep others around you safe. If that is the case, we need to be extra careful and pay attention to the masks others wear around us. We also need to be aware of the masks we are wearing and the health risks they may have. So what mask is best for others to be wearing around you? The first answer is a clean mask regardless of type, and as disposable masks are not clean after use, you should be leery of others using them. Hartford Hospital provides an excellent article on Cloth Masks vs. Surgical Masks. It’s likely that be surprised by what it discloses. We highly recommend the article.
What should not surprise you is that N95 masks are not recommended for the public, and that they remain critically needed by the nation’s health care workers and others in crucial safety roles. Both the CDC and World Health Organization recommend people wear cloth masks. A study published in April in Annals of Internal Medicine found that a cloth mask offers more protection then a surgical mask for people nearby – another reason to use washable cloth masks.
Surprising Mask Comparison
Many wear a mask to keep others safe knowing that COVID-19 may not be presenting symptoms and we want to protect others around us. Here is the real shocking part. In one study, four infected patients coughed five time into a petri dish waring no mask, then a surgical mask, then a cotton mask. Researchers swabbed the mask’s interior and exterior. Notably, most swabs from the interior mask surface were negative. All swabs from the outer mask surface were positive. If you use, and then reuse a disposable surgical mask, you have an infected mask that could put others at risk. With a cloth mask, washing it for at least 20 seconds with soap and water makes it safe for another use.
Protecting Employees, Vendors and Customers
Logic goes a long way when wearing a mask and choosing a mask. If I ran a business where people were coming in and touching surfaces I would not allow the disposable masks, as them touching the outside, and then other surfaces spreads COVID-19. These are not my own research findings, but a thorough review of the most basic protection against disease spread, a clean mask.
For what it’s worth, due to my wife’s condition, the Hartford Hospital Transplant Team recommended I wash my hands, mask, and even my clothing when I come home. Governors and health professionals, please listen! This is something to consider when handing out those disposable surgical masks in your state. If you’re an employer, it’s something to be thinking about if your requiring your employees to wear masks. The bottom line is, let’s all care for one another and stay safe!