Mask-wearing is an essential part of global efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19.
According to a recent report from CNN, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky suggests everyone above 2 years of age needs to wear a mask when in public and around others at the home who do not live there.
A vast majority of Americans are masking up and that is great! But, the pandemic has once again evolved with dangerous new variants showing up in a growing number of communities.
It’s time to think about which masks (and which mask-wearing methods) will provide the greatest protection.
What’s In a Mask?
A research team at Duke University recently conducted a study testing the amount of possible protection for the different types of face covers. They compared the efficacy of each face cover based on its ability to limit the spread of respiratory droplets.
Cloth Face Masks
There are currently no formal regulatory testing standards for the production quality of cloth masks. They can be found in a variety of types with a wide range of possible efficacies.
- Single-Layer Cloth Masks: Face covers like gaiters and bandanas may actually increase the risk of transmitting infectious particles. This is due to the thin fabric which tends to break larger droplets into smaller (and more easily transmittable) particles. The Duke research team found that more particles were spread when these mask types were used versus no face covers used at all.
- Multi-Layer Cloth Masks: Some cloth masks may offer moderate protection if they are made with multiple layers, fitted to the curvature of your face, and the fabrics are tightly woven.
Linsey Marr, a researcher at Virginia Tech who studies airborne virus transmission, estimated cloth masks might be around 50-percent effective at blocking viruses.
"We're at the point now... that we need better than fifty percent,” said Marr.
Medical Grade Respirators (N95 & KN95 Masks)
N95 and KN95 face masks, which have certified filtration rates of 95 percent and outperform cloth masks. The Duke mask study indicated three-ply surgical masks also provide greater protection than cloth-based counterparts.
According to CNN, a recent study by the CDC identified “double-masking” as a great tool for reducing viral spread. By wearing a medical-grade disposable surgical mask underneath a properly fitted multi-layer cloth mask, the amount of potentially-dangerous particles blocked was shown to rise from around 50 percent to 92.5 percent.
It’s All About Quality
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