Masks and Shields: A Breakdown of COVID-19 Armor
BY KATIE CAVENDER
Even though a trip to the grocery store doesn’t involve riding horseback with a medieval lance in tow, it does require armor of sorts. Gone are the days of metal breastplates with the family crest. Today’s armor to fend off the coronavirus looks more like a cloth face covering sporting your favorite team or an endearing pattern. But not all armor is created equal.
When should I wear a vented face mask?
Masks with breathing valves can be useful when working in construction and surrounded by airborne particles that are harmful to inhale. These masks prevent harmful particles from entering the mask and allow breath and moisture to exit. However, since outgoing particles are not filtered, these masks may be ineffective when it comes to slowing the spread of the coronavirus. If you have a vented mask, wear it with a procedural/surgical type mask to keep the valve covered.
Remember – wearing a face mask primarily protects others, not the person wearing it. It’s critical that we all wear effective face coverings, implement social distancing and practice strict hand hygiene.
Are neck gaiters, scarves or bandanas effective masks?
Fabrics, styles and fit of cloth face coverings vary widely, and so do their effectiveness. Researchers are continuing to investigate face masks to discover which types are the most effective at slowing the spread of COVID-19. The most important factors for an effective face mask are fit and fabric.
If you have a neck gaiter, scarf or bandana that doesn’t fit snuggly against your face, it will not prevent your respiratory droplets from entering the air around you. You may also be tempted to touch and adjust your mask throughout the day increasing the chance that germs will be spread from your hands to your mask and face. Your face mask should be two-ply and made of breathable fabric, but the fabric should not be sheer. Use these criteria to evaluate your neck gaiter, scarf or bandana and determine if it’s the best choice for you and your family.
What type of mask is most effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19?
The CDC recommends that all face masks:
Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of your face
Completely cover your nose and mouth
Are secured with ties or ear loops
Include multiple layers of fabric
Allow for breathing without restriction
Can be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape
When it comes to material, the Pennsylvania Department of Health recommends using two layers of tightly woven 100% cotton fabric.
Wearing a face mask alone is not the answer to preventing the spread of the coronavirus. It’s important to wash your hands, distance yourself from others when possible and stay home if you feel ill.
What type of mask am I required to wear for the universal masking order?
The Pennsylvania Department of Health issued a “Universal Masking Order” requiring individuals to wear a face covering, in both indoor public places and in the outdoors when they are not able to consistently maintain social distancing from individuals who are not members of their household.
The state of Pennsylvania defines face coverings as, “A covering of the nose and mouth that is secured to the head with ties, straps, or loops over the ears or is wrapped around the lower face. A ‘face covering’ can be made of a variety of synthetic or natural fabrics, including cotton, silk, or linen, and, for the purposes of the order, can include a plastic face shield that covers the nose and mouth.”
For everyday use, preferred face coverings should be factory-made or sewn by hand. Additionally, procedural/surgical masks (paper) can be used as effective face coverings. N95 respirator face masks provide the highest level of protection and filtration. These specialized respirators are typically intended for health care providers and first responders.
To read more about how the Universal Masking Order applies to you visit Universal Face Coverings Order FAQ.
Can face shields help prevent the spread of COVID-19?
Face shields are not a replacement for cloth face coverings. If worn, it should be in addition to a face mask for your protection. Disposable face shields should only be worn once, and reusable face shields should be cleaned and disinfected after each use. Plastic face shields for newborns and infants are NOT recommended.
Is there scientific evidence that wearing a mask can help prevent the spread of an infectious disease?
Yes. You can visit the CDC webpage considerations for wearing face coverings, to read about the evidence for the effectiveness of cloth face coverings, including scientific studies from reputable organizations.
For more information on COIVD-19, safety practices and face mask FAQs, please visit LVHN.org/COVIDSTRONG.