To mask or not to mask, that is the question. If you follow the overwhelming scientific evidence, filter out conspiracies and unfounded misinformation, the answer is as resoundingly clear as the mask you should have on your face. Is wearing a mask 100 percent effective and foolproof as it relates to protecting against or transmitting disease, in this instance Covid-19? Of course not. But substantial evidence, anecdotally and through studies, shows we can keep ourselves and others safer by simply following mask guidelines.
Because the Center for Disease Control reversed its original position that said masks weren’t necessary to a recommendation we now should wear a mask, confusion and suspicion of its motivation resulted. But take a deep breath from behind your mask: the shift isn’t difficult to understand. The prevalence of the disease was thought to be low in the beginning, creating a false sense of security. This was caused at least in part to the lack of testing capability. The concern that the general population would scoop up masks needed by health care professionals was real. One needs to look no further than the toilet paper frenzy for evidence. Also, as time went on and real-time data and additional information came in, it also became clear that pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic transmission is possible – perhaps even common. In other words, you don’t even know you have it – or have it yet – but you are putting others at risk. So, not surprisingly, a better understanding of the virus led to changes in the approach to combat the increasing spread.
UC San Francisco epidemiologist George Rutherford, MD, and infectious disease specialist Peter Chin-Hong, MD, talk about the CDC’s reversal on mask-wearing, the current science on how masks work, and what to consider when choosing a mask. The full article is linked here. The article cites data, links to studies and discusses the effectiveness and drawbacks to a variety of masking materials and techniques. It is well worth the read.
No single piece of equipment or behavior will swing the pendulum away from the spread of Covid-19. It takes all of us working together – washing hands, social distancing, wearing masks – to
slow the spread and put us safely back on the path to our pre-pandemic day-to-day lives.
As a filter manufacturer, we believe the most effective mask currently is one that provides for submicron filtration – the N95. But remember, something is better than nothing. When you cough or sneeze, wearing a mask isn’t a perfect solution. But few would argue that it doesn’t make perfect sense.
Here are some other sources of information worth pondering as you try to navigate your own path through the pandemic:
- Should I wear a mask in public?
- Effectiveness of Masks and Respirators Against Respiratory Infections in Healthcare Workers: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
- Simple Respiratory Protection—Evaluation of the Filtration Performance of Cloth Masks and Common Fabric Materials Against 20–1000 nm Size Particles