What Kind of Mask Should We be Wearing?
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At the beginning of the nationwide quarantine, it seemed we only saw a handful of people walking around with face covers. Seven months later though, there is barely anywhere you can go without one in the state of New Jersey. People have surely gotten creative since these mandates were announced; sporting everything from medical masks to face shields, bandanas, and of course, the infamous tee-shirt over the mouth look. But what is really our best bet to wear in order to protect ourselves and others from the COVID-19 virus? We break it all down.
Perhaps better known as N95 masks, these medical devices are made to prevent exposure to tiny droplets that can remain suspended in the air. These masks are customized to fit an individual’s face so that they seal off the outside environment in totality. Although these masks are probably the safest in terms of protecting the wearer and those they may come into contact with, the CDC claims that they are currently in short supply. For this reason, health care workers and first responders have priority access to professional respirators and may otherwise be unavailable to the general public.
These are loose-fitting masks that cover the mouth and nose. Even though they don’t fully seal off the outside environment from the face, these blue lightweight masks are fluid resistant and provide some protection against larger respiratory droplets from coughs and sneezes. These masks are more effective for preventing the wearer from spreading potential disease, as opposed to protecting the wearer from becoming infected.
According to the CDC, these masks may help slow the spread of COVID-19 and help keep people who may unknowingly have the virus from transmitting it to others. They also state that yes, it is okay to make your own mask. It is important however to select a fabric that is thick yet breathable, preferably a dense cotton material.
These have become very popular since the start of the pandemic, however, a recent small study found that they may not be effective and could even be harmful. A recent report in the NY Times disputes these findings and says gaiters can be effective in decreasing the spread of the virus. What is most important is the material. It should not be made of loosely woven or material that is too light which could let droplets through.