CLOTH MASKS DON’T CUT IT – Upgrade Your Face Mask
Since the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic, wearing a face mask has been recommended as one of the best ways that anyone can easily reduce the risk of catching or spreading the virus. If that is the case, why are we also not encouraged to wear better masks? The bottom line is that cloth masks were never a great match for an airborne virus like COVID and are even less so against more transmissible variants like Delta and Omicron.
Surgical masks, when medical-grade quality and worn tightly across the face are better than cloth masks but the most effective masks are high filtration respirators that everyone should now be using and what every institution should be making available.
Abraar Karan, a Stanford infectious – diseases doctor who has researched COVID transmission has been calling for the use of high-filtration masks in the global fight against Omicron.
WHY CLOTH MASKS DON’T CUT IT
“The transmission of the coronavirus is primarily through aerosols, which float around in the air — you inhale them — and are not filtered well by cloth masks. You really need melt-blown polypropylene, which you find in surgical masks and high filtration masks to stop these small particles”.
IS IT THE MATERIALS USED?
“Yes. Cloth masks are often just woven thread and other materials. A high filtration mask is basically melt-blown polymers, like polypropylene, which form this complex sort of webbing which is then electrostatically charged and that pulls the particles in when you’re inhaling and exhaling”
WHAT MAKES THIS ISSUE SO URGENT?
“Omicron! The transmissibility issue is a huge one, and masks are completely tied to that. The chances of catching COVID in transient or fleeting interactions, like being in the grocery store for a few minutes or being face-to-face with somebody for a conversation — I think it’s far more likely that I could get transmission now with this variant than with any others in the past. There’s a lot of ripple effects from a lot of people getting sick at once. So, for me, it’s a no-brainer: This is not the time to increase your risk-taking.”
HOW OFTEN CAN YOU RE-USE THESE HIGH FILTRATION MASKS?
Often. Luckily most high filtration masks now come with spare inside liners.
WHAT ARE THE BARRIERS TO WIDESPREAD PUBLIC ADOPTION OF HIGH-FILTRATION MASKS?
I think that people don’t know which masks to get, or where to get them, and then actually being able to afford them. Those are issues that governments can address. It’s not going to be perfect, but we’re not aiming for perfect; we’re aiming for good enough to get transmission curbed significantly. I’m in infectious disease taking care of patients; I’m not supposed to be telling governments how to do this. This is ridiculous”.
The interview with Abraar Karan was originally published in Intelligencer / New York. It has been edited and condensed for clarity and has been updated.
The cloth mask can also be uncomfortable to wear. Most can reduce the amount of available oxygen by up to 20%. Probably why many people don’t wear them to cover their nose. The need for respirators as part of the design is therefore critical, to ensure that people wear them longer to protect themselves.
Please wear glasses. Viruses can get into your eyes.
Omicron is everywhere
CLOTH MASKS DON’T CUT IT
Seriously, Upgrade Your Face Mask!