"Should I wear a mask for the Covid-19 coronavirus?"
N95 vs medical / surgical vs cloth: masks are a thing now. But are they actually as necessary or useful as we think?
Misquoting Hamlet: "To mask or not to mask, that is the question."
Do you wear a mask these days?
Not sure what is the right thing to do?
At H2Only, we have procedures to protect everybody in our daily delivery process. Mask usage is part of those procedures.
Here is a list of questions lots of folks like us seem to be asking:
- Should I wear a mask if I am sick?
- Should I wear a mask at home?
- Should I wear a mask in my car?
- Should I wear a mask at work?
- Should I wear a mask shopping?
- Should I wear a mask outside?
Before we get to those, we need to answer two other questions:
Qestion 1: What is a Covid-19 mask?
There are three basic options:
Option 1: N-95 respirator:
he only option of the three that can filter out the virus when properly used. N-95 respirators are in short supply, and we are to save them for medical practitioners and front-line workers. In the rest of this article, we do not refer to the N95 when we talk about masks.
Option 2: Medical / surgical mask:
Disposable single-use paper/polymer mask. Work against larger droplets, sprays, and splashes. Liquid-resistant, to prevent fluid pass-through. Medical masks are not effective at actually filtering out the Covid-19 virus, and because they are not a fitted respirator, there is also leakage around the edges of the filter.
Option 3: Cloth mask:
Sewn or un-sewn single or multiple layer fabric masks. Some come with the option to insert additional filtration materials. There is no good way to rate home-made filters because of differences in materials, construction, and fit. A cotton mask, even multi-layer, is much less able to stop a Covid-19 virus than an N95 respirator, but may be comparable to a medical mask.
Question 2: Do medical and cloth masks work against Covid-19?
There is a significant percentage of transmission from pre-symptomatic (not yet feeling sick) or asymptomatic (never feel sick) individuals, which can go on for up to 21 days. In other words, you or I could be infecting others for weeks without knowing it.
Also, most of us are unfamiliar with wearing masks. Since they are strange to us, we are far more likely to touch and adjust them causing us to touch our faces. I bet a lot of us had no idea how much we touched our faces before this pandemic!
So why wear a mask? A mask reduces the distance a virus can travel from the wearer. In other words, it makes social distancing more effective. Two meters (six feet) is a minimum social distance: a sneeze can throw droplets thirty feet or more! Wearing a face mask helps keep the droplets in the mask.
Now that we know a bit about what masks are and why we might want to wear one, let's look at those questions at the top of the page:
Should I wear a mask if I am sick?
Yes. If you are exhibiting any of the symptoms of Covid-19, you absolutely need to quarantine yourself, wear a mask when interacting with anyone, and get tested.
Should I wear a mask at home?
No. At least, not unless someone in the home is in self-quarantine.
Should I wear a mask in my car?
Maybe. It depends on who is in your car. If you are by yourself, or with members of your household, no. Otherwise, since you are in touching distance, yes.
Should I wear a mask at work?
At the office? For an interview?
Maybe. It depends on the level of social distancing, personal space, and general air quality available. A crowded workspace with low air-exchange levels is not as covid-proof as a shop with the next person 25 feet away and the bay doors open. Air conditioning might not be your friend this summer.
Should I wear a mask shopping?
Buying groceries? At the bank? In the mall?
Yes. Social distancing is difficult when entering a retail location. Also, stores and institutions are starting to requiring wearing a mask.
Should I wear a mask outside?
At the park or on a walk outside?No. There would be no benefit in wearing a face mask while taking a walk outside. Air quality is high, and air movement is diffusing the virus. If you are 2+ meters from anyone else, a mask won't make any difference.
An exception: is the area crowded with lots of people, even if they are being socially distant? Then, maybe "yes" is the right answer.
At the drive-thru or a curb-side pick-up? At the airport or on a bus?Yes. Social distancing would be impossible. Anything one can do to reduce transmission is a good idea. In all the above, people are at touching distance, so definitely inside the social safety zone.
The best use of a mask would seem to be improved social distancing. The question "Should I wear a mask for coronavirus?" is one of social responsibility rather than one of personal benefit. Wearing a surgical or cloth mask isn't to keep someone else's virus away from you. Instead, it helps keep your virus, that you may not even know you have, away from others.
And here may be another reason for wearing a mask. A member of our staff has noticed that when she is out and about and wearing a mask, people give her more space. Maybe wearing a mask increases social distancing. The cloth of the mask may not stop the virus from passing through, but wearing one may help by keeping people who may have the virus further away!
What will we be telling our H2Only crew?
- Don't interact with clients at their door.
- Don't go into their homes or businesses.
- If you must enter, wear a mask.
- On completion of every delivery, sanitize hands.
- If you are alone or with members of your household: No.
- If you are in a situation where people are likely to be less than 2 meters (6 feet) apart: Yes
To view more posts, visit the category archive..