Face Coverings: Where to Start and What You Should Know
In addition to social distancing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has now recommended that a face covering be worn in public settings as the latest effort to contain the novel Coronavirus pandemic. While face coverings have been popular in several countries for years, the idea is outside of typical cultural norms in the United States, leaving many Americans questioning where to start.
For those that are not familiar with face masks, we hope to provide some valuable insight throughout this article where we’ll compare key mask options, when they should be utilized and how to properly follow the CDC’s latest guidelines.
N95 or KN95 Respirators
If you were not familiar with what an N95 Respirator was prior to the pandemic, it is almost certain that you are now. This specific type of mask has been making headlines across the world since the start of the 2019-nCoV outbreak due to a severe shortage in the product.
The N95 Respirator is used to protect the wearer from airborne particles as well as blood or other hazardous fluids. Although standards vary by country, these masks typically provide the highest level of protection, capturing >95% of virus-sized particles. N95 masks are critical for healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses, and others caring for known or suspected COVID-19 patients in a medical facility, however the availability of such masks have been extremely limited.
Due to the increased demand, the use of Chinese-manufactured KN95 masks have been approved for use in the United States by the Federal Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control. According to 3M, “it is reasonable to consider China KN95, AS/NZ P2, Korea 1st Class, and Japan DS FFRs as “equivalent” to US NIOSH N95 and European FFP2 respirators, for filtering non-oil-based particles such as those resulting from wildfires, PM 2.5 air pollution, volcanic eruptions, or bioaerosols (e.g. viruses)”.
The Centers for Disease Control and Protection does not recommend that N95 or KN95 respirators be worn by the general public. Instead, those outside of a healthcare facility should opt for disposable face masks or cloth coverings.
Disposable Face Masks
An additional option for reducing exposure to illness when social distancing cannot be avoided are disposable face masks. Many are already familiar with these masks as they are popularly used in several countries for day to day protection when out in public.
Disposable face masks create a loose-fitting barrier between the wearer and potential contaminants. They are fluid resistant and intended to provide the wearer protection against larger droplets, splashes or spray of blood, bodily fluids, or other hazardous fluids. It is also effective in reducing exposure to smaller particles such as dust, pollution, smoke, and other micro contaminants.
While it is not considered respiratory protection, this type of face mask assists in reducing the exposure of illness by working to isolate contaminants from the wearer’s respiratory emissions. When available, disposable face masks should be worn under the following conditions to help slow the spread of COVID-19:
- If you are sick with a cough or sneezing illness, with or without a fever
- When caring for or encountering a person with a known or suspected illness (if an N95 respirator is not available)
- Before entering a public place where people congregate, such as a grocery store.
Disposable face masks are recommended for single use only and should be replaced immediately if the mask becomes moist or visibly contaminated.
Cloth Face Coverings
Simple cloth face coverings, paired with maintaining at least 6 feet of social distancing, are recommended by the CDC for use by the general public in the latest effort to slow the spread COVID-19. While these types of face coverings provide less protection than traditional masks, they are helpful in slowing the spread of the virus when worn in public settings.
Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items or made inexpensively at home with just a few materials necessary. You can find several helpful tutorials for creating cloth face coverings online, including sewn and non-sewn versions on the CDC’s website.
It is important to keep in mind that a fabric face covering does not guarantee protection from getting COVID-19, however, it can help prevent you from spreading the virus if social distancing is unavoidable.
While the 2019-nCoV outbreak has been quite scary for many, embracing the idea of protection through face coverings doesn’t have to be. Many countries, most commonly across Asia, have been utilizing face masks for years, even outside of known epidemics. While the use of face coverings may feel unfamiliar or uncomfortable to many Americans, the benefits to the public, especially during this trying time, are invaluable.
To protect yourself and your family, several options are currently available via our website. You can find Disposable Face Masks here, or, KN95 Masks here. If you have any questions regarding the use of face coverings, please feel free to contact us.
Disclaimer: Please note that we do not claim that any face covering will completely prevent exposure to disease or illness. We urge you to follow the recommendations of your local government officials and the CDC. Please always consult a trained medical professional prior to the use of any face masks.