Finding the right mask
The Saskatchewan Health Authority has implemented mandatory masks in indoor public spaces in Regina, Saskatoon, and Prince Albert. Last Friday, mandatory masks were also implemented in communities with a population of over 5000 people.
With Saskatchewan averaging 120 COVID-19 cases per day, it is now more important than ever to find the most effective mask to wear. Updates to COVID-19 guidelines show that the virus is more airborne than initially predicted. COVID-19 spreads through larger respiratory droplets that are heavy enough to fall after being discharged and smaller, aerosol droplets prone to float in the air for longer. The aerosol droplets make mask use essential to limit further spread.
Implementing masks allows for everyone around you to remain safe from respiratory discharge. Although any type of mask is not 100 per cent effective, it is still much more effective than wearing no mask at all.
Surgical face masks are popular for being effective, disposable, and lightweight. With many reserved for healthcare workers, they are still popular among the general public for convenient, reliable protection. The convenience of wearing a disposable mask does come with a cost: medical masks are not recyclable. Reusing these masks is discouraged and the plastics in the mask make for a slow breakdown. After using a disposable mask, it is recommended to snip the attachments that go around your ears, so wildlife does not get stuck.
Cloth and fabric masks are ubiquitous for the average person because the materials to make them are easily accessible. Making a homemade cloth or fabric mask should be out of three layers of tightly woven cotton. Cloth and fabric masks should be washed after each use on a hot cycle, then laid to dry. It is important that the mask is form fitting to keep respiratory droplets inside.
Face shields are not a sufficient protection choice alone. The face shield is a clear visor that provides a respiratory droplet barrier between yourself and others. Although it protects you from respiratory droplets, it does not provide any protection for aerosol droplets that linger in the air. Face shields should be used as a secondary precaution after masks to ensure maximum security.
Bandanas and neck gaiters are an inefficient mask choice because of their porous fabric. The fabric allows for bigger particles to seep through the mask up to three feet, eliminating the social distancing measurement by a foot. Although an inefficient mask is better than no mask, it is crucial to avoid bandanas for the last available option.
Respirators with exhaust valves are ineffective because they release the respirator’s particles into the air. While the respirator is protected, they are releasing potentially harmful aerosols and particles into the air. Respirators without valves are fully efficient.
While mask use is essential, mask disposal and mask care are crucial to limit the virus’s spread. Precautionary measures such as social distancing, washing your hands, and refraining from touching your face will also limit spread.