Three Benefits of Wearing A Cloth Face MaskBy Shirtspace | Apr 13, 2020 | Updated Oct 23, 2020
There's no doubt you’ve seen reports of protective mask shortages across the world due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Along with these mass shortages came a wave of top apparel and fabric manufacturers in the U.S. and abroad quickly shifting their production lines to procure personal protective masks for medical professionals, emergency services, and the general public.
Although many of the DIY and other cloth masks being produced aren’t necessarily medical grade or N95 rated, there are still a myriad of benefits to wearing a cloth mask, especially during a pandemic like the one we’ve been facing. Some of these benefits hinge on continuously evolving science, while some are purely economical and practical; however, they are all based on a combination of all the best information we currently have available. One thing is absolutely undeniable, that you can’t go wrong by doing your part to flatten the curve by adhering to most state’s guidelines surrounding social distancing as well as the new CDC recommendation of wearing some sort of simple face mask covering. Here are three benefits you should know about using these new CDC recommended protective face coverings.
1. The Droplet Theory.
The novel coronavirus and other respiratory infections like it are known to spread through aerosols, or tiny droplets of water that can carry viral particles. There is some solid science behind droplet size and weight that affects the dispersion or suspension of a droplet in the air indicating that viruses such as COVID-19 are most likely transmitted during close contact to the aerosol particles (Univ. of Minnesota).
By wearing a protective cloth mask, it is more likely that aerosol droplets are caught in the mask and prevented from entering the respiratory system. It is also important if there’s any chance you’ve been exposed, you’ll want to keep potentially infectious droplets from exiting your respiratory system to be suspended in the air until the next unsuspecting person or family member walks through that space and breathes all those little droplets in. There are a significant number of individuals who show no symptoms and don’t know they are strolling around grocery stores and transmitting infectious droplets through their breath. The cloth mask acts as both an inbound and outbound droplet barrier, with some studies indicating up to a 3-5X reduction in the amount of droplets passed through a mask in comparison to no barrier.
Simply put, if someone were to walk into an elevator and cough or sneeze on you will end up with less droplets on your face if you’re both wearing some kind of mask barrier.
According to Dr. Alison Haddock, with Baylor College of Medicine, it is extremely important to wash the mask with hot water after each use as it could potentially be contaminated on either side. Most medical grade masks are meant for one-time use. A reusable cloth face mask can simply be washed after a reasonable amount of protective use. Reusability for the average person is the most economical way of staying continuously protected when it’s absolutely necessary to be in a public space where social distancing isn’t possible. A general shortage of masks has led to the social responsibility and economic demand to reuse them whenever possible, so that we can continue "flattening the curve".
3. Save Medical Grade for Medical Professionals.
The most important reason to use a cloth mask is the collective humanitarian effort to save all available medical grade masks and equipment for the professionals in that field who need them most. The World Health Organization has confirmed that the COVID-19 virus is transmitted by close contact droplets. There are countless medical staff in close contact with potentially infected individuals that need maximum protection in the global effort to control the pandemic. The CDC has now made it our responsibility to use these cloth face covering barriers and practice social distancing in an effort to flatten the curve of the novel coronavirus, while leaving the medical grade equipment for the doctors and nurses who need them most.
Wear a mask, help stop the spread.
We know a cloth face covering certainly won’t offer the same protection as medical grade surgical masks or N95 respirators, but they can help reduce spreading of viruses through a community. Cloth masks are recommended in public places where it might be difficult to maintain the appropriate distance, such as grocery stores. You can find some great DIY videos online or invest in a comfortable, high quality, 3-layer face mask. Either way, you will help slow the spread of human droplets via sneezes, coughs, and normal breathing.