The world has been dealing with the COVID-19 for five months now, and while some countries have already made progress and have successfully flattened the curve, there are some who are a still a little bit challenged.
The WHO and the US CDC said that one way to prevent the transmission of this highly contagious disease is through three things: physical distancing of at least 2 meters (6ft), frequent and proper washing of hands, and the wearing of face masks.
You would think that by this time everyone would be on board with the fact that masks definitely help in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. It is all the more necessary if someone is unaware that they have the disease and are just asymptomatic. Unless you have some physical disability preventing you from wearing one, are under 2 years old, or are physically incapacitated to adjust the mask without someone’s assistance—then it’s expected that you don one for your own protection and that of everyone around you.
Are masks really effective?
Yes, and there is a lot of ongoing investigation studying the efficacy of wearing masks.
Laboratory analyses have been carried out to study the ability of masks to block respiratory droplets, the mode of transmission for the coronavirus. COVID-19 is mostly spread by respiratory droplets released when people talk, cough, or sneeze.
An experiment was done using a high-speed video, and it showed that even when talking, hundreds of droplets were generated but nearly all the droplets were contained by someone who was just wearing a damp washcloth. A similar study was done using computer simulations and compared someone sneezing without a mask with someone wearing one. After sneezing, the person not wearing a mask spread millions of droplets as far as 2 meters away from him. On the other hand, the person wearing a mask successfully contained the same droplets in his vicinity or overhead.
Real-world data supports the efficacy of masks. For example, a study compared the COVID-19 growth rate before and after mask mandates in 15 states and the District of Columbia. It found that mask mandates led to a slowdown in the daily COVID-19 growth rate, which became more apparent over time. The first five days after a mandate, the daily growth rate slowed by 0.9 percentage points compared to five days prior to the mandate, where at three weeks, the daily growth rate had slowed by 2 percentage points
You may have also heard of the man from China who, despite testing positive for COVID-19, did able to infect the 25 people sitting closest to him; all because he wore a mask. The same can be said of the two hairstylists from Missouri, who, after being found to be COVID positive, prevented the transmission of the virus to the 140 clients they interacted with because everyone, the hairstylists and their clients included, wore masks.
What are the types of masks and what are they made of?
There are dozens, even hundreds of types of masks out in the market today, but the more significant ones that we see often are cloth masks, surgical masks, and the increasingly famous N-95s (KN95 is the Chinese variant).
Cloth masks are made of cloth and can easily be made at home. Cloth masks replaced surgical masks and the N95s as the go-to choice for the public after the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advised that it’s allowed to be used. Due to the critically limited availability of surgical masks and N95s, the CDC opted to issue this advice in the hopes of saving whatever’s available for the use of health workers and medical front liners.
Surgical masks are the ones you see often. They usually appear as white and blue, and they are often seen, as part of the standard “uniform” of medical workers. These are made using special polymers that are woven using machines to form a plastic, almost cloth-like sheet. Three of these are then layered, sewn together, and are sometimes imbued with anti-viral or anti-bacterial chemicals.
N95s is the household name when it comes to masks nowadays. As its name suggests, this type of mask block out 95% of the incoming particles of a certain size from being inhaled by the wearer. Unlike the surgical masks, these ones are thicker and offer better coverage of your nose and mouth. Since they fit snuggly on the contours of your lower face, they also cause some breathability problems, but that’s normal given the level of protection it brings.
Masks are one of the protections we have from contracting the virus. In an ideal setting, you have to be fully covered in PPE to increase your chances of not getting infected at all but that’s impossible to do. If you’re looking for masks that are both protective and stylish, you can check out VastMedic’s mask offering here.