The CDC and health officials state masks with two layers of tightly woven fabric are most effective. graphic by Emma Palmer

Responsible masking protects communities from COVID-19

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, reaching about 107 million cases globally at the time of writing, it has become increasingly important for individuals to find ways to protect themselves and in turn protect their loved ones. While vaccines like Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have become available to some, a large majority of individuals like students remain unable to access the vaccine yet must continue to put themselves at risk to do things like go to classes or get groceries. With this, finding the most effective techniques for masking and evaluating what kinds of masks to wear can be imperative in staying safe.

TU mandates that students wear masks indoors and outside when unable to maintain a six foot distance from other individuals. Within classes, students are required to maintain six foot social distancing, which is facilitated by reduced class sizes. Even while social distancing, though, it is important to wear masks correctly to mitigate any potential spread of COVID-19. Masks are most effective when tightly fitted and worn over the mouth and nose.

The CDC recently released a report finding that masking is particularly effective, about 96.5 percent, if both individuals wear a “well-fitting mask” with two or more layers. This might mean wearing a second cloth mask over a surgical mask or tying the two ear loops to be tighter, eliminating gaps where air might escape from the sides of your masks as much as possible.

When choosing what mask to wear, it is important to keep in mind that not every mask is as effective as it should be — choosing options that mitigate potential spread of COVID-19 is simple to research and imperative in keeping ourselves and others safe. Johns Hopkins Medical School states that neck gaiters and bandanas pulled over the mouth are considerably less effective. This is because of the opening at the bottom of bandana masks that allow air to escape and the thinness of gaiters that cannot block aerosol particles as much as other fabrics. Similarly, clear face shields, when worn alone, are also ineffective because of the gaps that they allow on the sides of the face.

While a face shield on its own is not very effective because of the gaps it leaves, it might be a good option for individuals seeking additional protection while wearing an additional mask over the mouth and nose. Wearing a face shield over a N95 mask or surgical mask is an effective way to reduce contact with airborne particles that many healthcare professionals use when in close contact with many people, especially those that do not wear a mask or remove their masks to be treated. However, for the general public that does not interact with many people in such close proximity, a face shield is not strictly necessary.

More effective masks have multiple layers of fabric that are tightly woven; if planning to make a mask at home or buy a homemade mask, Johns Hopkins suggests cotton or linen fabric for the materials. For people with glasses, Johns Hopkins recommends a mask with a bendable border at the top bridge that can tighten to fit the nose bridge and reduce fogging.

Post Author: Piper Prolago