As the world begins to fully reopen and get back to some semblance of “normal,” many states continue to require the use of masks. Although there are several vaccines now available, not everyone is vaccinated or has the desire to be vaccinated, which means the risk of infection is still a concern for many. And, while individuals want to get back to normal life and being around friends and family, the requirement to continue to wear masks for coronavirus protection still exists.
The question many people are asking is how does a mask help prevent coronavirus? Are there special coronavirus masks that are better than others to help prevent the spread of the virus? Is there any science behind the mandates to even wear a mask? We will address these questions and many others down below.
What is the Coronavirus, and How Does it Impact One’s Health?
The first known COVID-19 case was recorded in Wuhan, China, in 2019. After conducting research in the area, scientists believe that it originated from an animal that was sold at a local market. The virus quickly spread throughout the country and was classified as an epidemic before too long. Over the course of the next year, the number of new cases skyrocketed as the virus spread to other countries, forcing the global community to classify it as a pandemic. Many people are not aware that COVID-19 is actually an acronym for Coronavirus Disease 2019. It is also the name of the disease caused by the underlying virus. The name of the actual virus is SARS-CoV-2.
In order to first gain access to our bodies, virus particles travel through the air in the form of droplets from spit and mucus. It is quite difficult for them to travel alone, so they must hitchhike by means of bodily fluids. These types of viruses are named coronaviruses because of the spiked proteins that form on the outer layers. Corona means crown in Spanish, and the protein spikes appear to emulate the shape of a crown. These spikes allow the virus to reach out and latch onto cells in the human body and quickly infect the host.
COVID-19 symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
- New fatigue
- Nausea or vomiting
- Congestion or runny nose
Symptoms and levels of severity can be different for everyone. On the one hand, someone can be very sick and may experience lung failure, problems with the nervous system, and even death. These symptoms are quite rare and are usually observed in those who are older or have weaker immune systems. On the other hand, someone could be infected with the virus and never even know it. These individuals are known as asymptomatic.
How Do Masks Help Prevent Coronavirus?
When worn properly, higher-quality face masks and respirators filter out harmful airborne particles such as dust, mold, pollen, smoke, bacteria, and viruses. Most mask media is electrostatically charged. This means that the material uses oppositely charged ions to attract particles. Some masks, such as our Filti NF95 respirator, utilize mechanical filtration instead. This type of mask is more like a fishing net with very small holes to allow air molecules to pass through while keeping particulates from entering one’s airways.
Not only do masks protect the user from potential contamination sources, but they also prevent those who are unknowingly infected from spreading their germs to others by sneezing, coughing, or talking. Most of the larger droplets fall to the ground or land on nearby surfaces and can easily be sprayed farther than 6 ft if someone sneezes. Therefore, it is important to properly sanitize frequently touched surfaces in and around places of business and within one’s home to make sure that active virus particles are neutralized. Smaller droplets, known as aerosols, can linger in the air around us. These particles are less than or equal to about 5 microns (micrometers) in diameter.
While a standard cloth mask is better than nothing, it is important to use higher quality masks and face coverings, as particles can still get through bandanas, gaiters, and cheap, counterfeit masks. N95 masks are highly regarded by the CDC and the WHO for their ability to filter out 95% of particles that are as small as 0.3 microns in diameter.
Are There Special Coronavirus Masks?
There are many masks on the market today that advertise various levels of protection. Here at Filti, we like to classify them with three categories: basic, mid-level, and high-quality protection.
Basic protection starts with cloth rags, bandanas, homemade cloth masks, etc. These face coverings offer 10% or less protection for particles that are as small as 0.3 microns in diameter. Mid-range protection pertains to multi-layered cloth masks with filter inserts and better-quality surgical style masks. The most protective equipment includes N95 rated masks/respirators, as well as motorized air filtration apparatuses, and other sealed face coverings. For more information, check out one of our articles at Filti.com about the different types of coronavirus masks.
All in all, the type of mask that you wear and how you wear it, should be carefully considered during this pandemic to help stop the spread of the virus and ultimately put an end to the restrictions we face each and every day. It is recommended that everyone use higher quality face masks and coverings to help prevent the spread of the virus, but these products may not be so easily attainable by everyone. Again, something like a bandana or a cheaper PM2.5 mask is better than nothing.
Coronavirus Masks vs. the Coronavirus Vaccination
While the coronavirus vaccination has shown promising results to help curb the spread of the virus, the vaccination may not be effective for all variants of the coronavirus. Some mutations allow the virus to resist certain vaccines and treatments. These alternate strains can also be more contagious and have more severe side effects than the original.
Therefore, there is still a need to wear masks in public or crowded spaces. Vaccines cannot protect against everything, and it is still unknown whether people who have been vaccinated can be carriers for the virus or not. The CDC has stated that it is “keeping a close eye” on those who have been fully vaccinated. It is important to note that there have been reports that out of 77 million individuals who have been fully vaccinated, there have been about 6,000 cases of people still getting infected. Now, this number may not seem very large, but these individuals could infect thousands of others that they come in contact with throughout their day.
There is also the issue of many people not wanting to get the vaccine once it is made available to them. Since the vaccine is not mandatory, these people will still need to wear masks and protective equipment since their immune system is not equipped to neutralize the virus. Even though many states are starting to open back up and lift mask mandates, there are still many stores and businesses that require proper facial protection to enter.
Guidance on Masks for Coronavirus from the CDC
Throughout the pandemic, the CDC has released guidelines and multiple revisions as the situation developed and evolved about how masks and protective coverings should be worn and by whom they should be worn by. When out in public, it is important to wear a mask over both the nose and mouth. A nose wire or similar device is vital to help create a seal around the upper part of the face and nose. One should not wear masks that are made out of restrictive materials that could make it difficult to breathe through or that could irritate one’s airways.
The CDC has posted guidance that outlines who should and should not be wearing masks for coronavirus. If someone is older than the age of two, in a public setting, traveling by means of public transportation, around people whom he or she does not live with, or has someone who lives with them that is sick with the virus (or exhibits symptoms), then they should wear a mask. If someone is younger than the age of two, has a prohibiting disability, or is a person whose workplace safety or health could be at risk, then they should not wear a mask. For more information on face mask usage and types of masks for coronavirus, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html.
Thanks for Reading!
We here at Filti are passionate about helping people stay healthy and improving the quality of the air that they are breathing. Our masks and filter products are designed to help keep you and your family safe by filtering out the bad particles in the air, including the different COVID virus strains. Our mission is to make quality air filtration products available to all consumers and frontline workers. For more information about Filti, our products, and our mission, visit our website at filti.com or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!