Masks In The World Of Coronavirus
Although it can be hard to remember what it was like to walk around freely, touch anything or anyone without worrying about it and just being able to see people’s faces, the fact of the matter is that we are all about to get back out there to one degree or another and whether we like it or not. Yes, according to the health professionals that we are all counting on for the best information and advice, it’s quite likely that the vast majority of us will have to get used to living in a world where the protective face mask is an essential part of what we wear when we set foot out into the real world – the world that puts us into close contact with other people.
Given that this will likely become the new norm for most people, especially those who live in densely populated areas, it’s important to understand why this is. Without mass testing and contact tracing, and with a vaccine for the Coronavirus likely being a year and a half to two years away, we are all being forced to accept the reality that our lives can not be put on hold for that long and that we will need to get back out into the world to work, shop and congregate with others without causing a massive spike in the number of people being infected. And, since the Coronavirus is known to be spread primarily through our coming into contact with the bodily fluids that we all end up putting into the air in the normal course of living, there is no getting around the fact that a safe and effective face mask is our best primary protection against becoming the next victim of this deadly disease.
In this article:
- Why Use A Protective Face Mask
- Who Needs To Wear A Mask
- Masks For The Rest Of Us
- Masks In The Real World
First and foremost, it’s critical to understand just what the virus is, how it came to be and how we have found ourselves in this position at this point in time.
According to all of the most respected and credible information available from the world’s premier medical organizations, the virus responsible for COVID-19 became an issue when it was first able to jump from a species of bats that are found in China to a human. From there it quickly spread throughout the region known as the Wuhan Province. What happened next is somewhat unclear, but it appears that the Chinese authorities understood what was happening and attempted to stop the spread to some degree while keeping much of what they were doing a secret from the rest of the world, Unfortunately, those attempts were unsuccessful and the virus was able to quickly spread around the world.
It does appear to be true that China was not particularly forthcoming with information about the disease or its spread and, as a result, the rest of the world was largely unprepared for the consequences of the virus. Within weeks the virus had spread across much of the world, especially, the northern hemisphere and lives of billions of people were dramatically changed. And, after all was said and done we found ourselves largely fighting the spread of this disease by cutting ourselves off from close human contact.
Still, after all of this, there is no way around the fact that people everywhere want to get back to something that resembles a normal life which includes going places and doing things that require us to be around others in a way that puts us all at risk of infection and spreading the virus even before we have it fully contained.
So, the question we all need to answer is how we can get back out into the world in a way that is somewhat recognizable to us as being close to normal while doing our part to keep ourselves, our families and friends safe. So, with that in mind, let’s look at what we need to know about using a mask to protect ourselves and those around us.
Why Use A Protective Face Mask
The Coronavirus is spread because it lives in the bodily fluids that we all expel. The more robust the action that causes us to put these fluids into the air the more likely it is that someone else will come into contact with these fluids. For example a strong cough or sneeze has the potential to send millions of the virus into the air at speeds up to two-hundred miles per hour and up to six to twelve feet away in just a few seconds. Even if we manage to avoid coughing and sneezing, we can still transfer fluids into the air simply by talking. Taking all of that into account the only real way to prevent the transmission of these fluids and the Coronavirus from getting into the air is to wear a protective mask.
So, being able to protect yourself and others is critical now that we find ourselves entering a new kind of normal that includes being in close proximity to others on a much more regular basis. With that being the case, the type of masks that we choose to wear will be critical and treating them like the protective gear that they are will be even more important. This is because there are certain things that should be done in order to make sure that the mask that you choose to wear is both safe and effective.
Who Needs To Wear A Mask
This is a tricky question because the guidelines that are being put out by the World Health Organization indicate that only persons who are medical professionals, caretakers for persons who may be infected with COVID-19 or people who are exhibiting symptoms such as coughing or fever absolutely need to wear a medical grade mask.
For those individuals there are a number of guidelines that should be observed in order to properly protect yourself from contamination. To begin with it is important that anyone wearing a medical grade mask be sure to thoroughly clean their hands with an alcohol based cleanser or soap and water to be sure that they do not get any contaminated materials on the clean mask. The next thing to do is make sure that they are putting the mask on properly. Hopefully, the mask that you are intending to use came with a set of instructions that will allow you to identify which part of the mask is the top or bottom and the inside and outside. Also, be sure that the mask is clean and has no holes in it.
The key thing here is that the mask should be placed over the nose and mouth and should extend under the chin. After placing the mask over your face properly make sure that the loops fit properly and comfortably over your ears. Be sure to check to see if the mask has no gaps around your nose or mouth. If all of these precautions have been followed it should be effective in preventing any exposure to the virus in the short term.
It is always important to remember that even medical grade masks are designed for short term or even one time usage. This means that the mask should be used as directed and then discarded in order to prevent any possible contaminants from being carried around and spread to others who are not infected. After removal and disposal it is important to clean your hands again using an alcohol based cleanser or soap and water. Also, remember that the most critical part of making sure that your hands are as clean as possible is that you wash them for a minimum of twenty seconds in order to remove as much of any potentially infectious materials as possible.
Masks For The Rest Of Us
As was pointed out in the previous section it is not necessary to wear a mask unless you are treating or caring for someone who is actually sick with the coronavirus. However, since it is true that the disease can be transmitted through small droplets by individuals who may be non-symptomatic, meaning that they show no signs of being sick, it is important to make sure that we treat everyone as though they are potentially infected. This being the case it is wise to practice social distancing procedures which call for people to stay at least six feet apart whenever possible to create a distance barrier. Combining this practice with regular washing of the hands with alcohol based cleanser or soap and water, especially after coming in contact with people or items which others may have been in contact with is the wise thing to do.
Still, social distancing and hand washing are not all that can be done to limit contact with the virus. This is especially true given that the virus has been shown to be able to survive for some time in small droplets which are suspended in the air and that infections are most likely to occur if those droplets come in contact with your mouth, nose or eyes.
Given all of these factors to be concerned with, the best course of action is to wear a mask when one expects to be in close proximity to anyone else. Since the advice from the World Health Organization suggests that medical grade masks are not necessary unless in the immediate presence of a person who is known to be sick the key thing to understand about a mask is that it simply be effective in preventing any significant transfer of small droplets from your own nose or mouth.
Under those parameters any clean and reasonably dense materials should provide adequate protection as long as they are clean, have no discernable holes in them and leave no significant gaps in their coverage of your face and mouth.
Masks In The Real World
Even though it may not be necessary for the average person to wear a professionally made protective mask, it certainly would be a good idea if you can do that. The problem for most people is that these kinds of masks are hard to find. Yes, this has been true since the early days of the pandemic, and no one wants to take a high quality medical grade mask away from a frontline health professional who needs them more than anyone else. Still, there are a number of sources out there for high quality masks that are made specifically for these needs and are more than enough when it comes to the type of protection that the average person requires in these times.
The main issue when trying to purchase these kinds of masks is making sure that they truly meet the need and that the seller is reputable. In general, the key thing to understand is that the mask must have been designed to protect against the spread of infectious diseases and not to keep out fine particles such as those found on construction sites. Once you have established that this is the case then it’s all just a matter of getting what you need at a reasonable price.
At the time this was posted, we found KN95 and N95 masks available here: