Protection During a Global Pandemic: Face Masks for Public Health

As individuals around the world continue to be impacted by the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus, recommendations about the best ways to stay safe and reduce spread have continued to evolve.

While there was initial controversy over the general public wearing masks in response to coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends that people wear masks or face coverings in public, especially in situations where social distancing rules may not be properly followed or are difficult to enforce.

In fact, many scientists and doctors are now advocating for a nationwide official policy encouraging the use of facial coverings or face masks during public outings.

Protective Face Masks in Response to Coronavirus

There are several types of masks or face coverings to be aware of, each with their own level of availability to the general public. In addition, there’s a lot of information circulating about different mask types, including who should be wearing them and when. Here’s a quick breakdown:

At one end of the spectrum are N95 respirators. N95 respirators are rated to protect the wearer against 95% of very small pathogen particles. These masks are considered PPE (personal protective equipment) for healthcare workers and first responders. They should not be worn by the public as a general rule. There are also now KN95 masks, which the CDC has listed as a suitable alternative to N95’s.

Surgical masks, such as 3-Ply masks, are worn by staff in surgery and other open medical procedures. They protect against most large particles but may not protect against microscopic viral particles the way N95 or KN95 masks do.

One step below surgical masks are cloth masks and face shields that cover the face but aren’t designed to stop the transmission of those tiny viral particles. They may, however, help protect the wearer from larger particles when social distancing fails. These masks, like others, also remind wearers not to touch their faces, another important protective measure.

Finally, you can simply tie a bandana or other similar fabric around your face. This reusable approach isn’t quite as protective as a snug mask, as it leaves the mouth and chin area open. However, many wearers say it offers some protection, which is better than none. Additionally, a bandana covering, like any facial covering, may help remind others to comply with social distancing guidelines and stay six feet away from everyone else.

As doctors and other health care professionals began warning the public and the press about dwindling and disappearing supplies of personal protective equipment, instructions on how to sew face masks (DIY) out of bandanas and other kinds of material have begun circulating online. Businesses, brands, and everyday consumers have set to work determining which fabrics and mask styles offer the best protection for public health.

Guidelines for Face Masks and Coverings from the CDC

The CDC has advised the public that for any cloth facial mask or covering to be effective, it should meet the following criteria:

  • It should fit snugly around the face, while still allowing the wearer to breathe and speak.
  • It should be attached firmly through the use of ties or ear loops to keep the cloth from slipping.
  • It should ideally consist of two or more layers of cloth fabric to improve the mask’s barrier function against viral particles.
  • It should be constructed of cloth that can be properly laundered for hygiene.

These masks should be worn when out in public and then removed carefully upon returning home. If at all possible, wearers should avoid touching their faces while the mask is in use. After removal, users should wash their hands thoroughly.

Face Masks and Other Facial Coverings You Can Deliver to Consumers

If you’d like to do your part to provide masks, face shields or other facial coverings to consumers, you can explore options here. In addition, it can be a good time to send bandanas or other items that can be easily repurposed as a facial covering during this time.

Take advantage of these items while they’re in stock, let your employees, clients, and consumers know you’re thinking of them during this difficult time. Safety for others leads to safety for all and sending face masks, hand sanitizer and other healthcare items can ensure we’re all doing our part to improve public health and flatten the curve.

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