Everybody knows that face masks are required in public settings to protect individuals from contracting and spreading the virus further. It’s also an act of civic responsibility and respect for the health and safety of the community. When we wear our masks properly, we are respecting and protecting others and ourselves. The only issue then is whether we are properly wearing masks — regardless of the situational circumstances.
Those who have contracted the coronavirus may be asymptomatic and may continue interacting with people and unknowingly spread the virus. In this case, masks are highly preventative in keeping people’s germs contained. Not only do masks provide a barrier between people’s respiratory excursions, but they also follow the mandates that give people a sense of relief in knowing that there is some preventative measure present.
Additionally, masks have been known to significantly reduce the severity of symptoms caused by the virus and milder and even asymptomatic infections. The use of cloth and medical-grade masks diminishes transmission of the virus wherein nearly 15 million people have been infected and over 282,000 have died nationwide.
The reason that research has been so minimal and why studies began late is because of the scattered variables within the data caused by the variety of masks used. Moreover, U.S. President Donald Trump has been disparaging their use since the start of the pandemic despite contracting the virus himself.
This wasn’t an issue because he was given the best medical care in the world and was offered anti-viral medications that haven’t yet been introduced to the public. Still, he was affected personally by the virus and still condemned the use of masks against the spread of it.
Coming from the nation’s leader was one side of the debate: that masks are unnecessary. But, coming from a scientific stance was the truth that argued the effectiveness of masks. This resulted in great confusion among Americans and countries that may have followed the president’s lead. The fact of the matter is, masks help but the line of effectiveness is blurred by the various types of masks and the environments people wear them.
The primary reason to wear masks should be to keep healthy and to prevent further spread of a virus that has gotten out of hand. Scientific professionals are working to change the mindset of those who believe the masks are ineffective by providing sufficient proof of the specific ways that masks work to prevent transmission and reduce the severity of the virus. This will take time and effort because of all of the variables in the equation and the studies that must be conducted to support their theories.
According to the FDA, the most protective mask is the N95 respirator. It’s designed to filter out 95% of airborne particles and is standard in healthcare settings, which is why it quickly fell into short supply as the pandemic progressed. This brought about the question of the effectiveness of other masks, like cloth versus surgical.
The article cites various observational studies that conclude that the size of the aerosols is the major component in determining the effectiveness of cloth and surgical masks. The larger the aerosols and the more layers within the mask, the more preventative it is against the spread, which keeps the wearer and those that surround them safer.
Linsey Marr, an environmental engineer at Virginia Tech, found that 80% of aerosols within two-five micrometers can be blocked by almost any fabric in either direction. She concluded that multiple layers of fabric are more effective, and this is especially true the tighter the weave is. Conclusively, masks with multiple layers of material, such as cotton and silk, can catch aerosols more efficiently than single-layered masks.
If people had more knowledge about the importance of masks against the spread of COVID-19, it may have been over before the annual mark — March — but this is far from reality. With more studies conducted and recommendations backed by scientific evidence are being advised, more people are aware of the effectiveness of masks.
The future looks brighter now that we have a president-elect who’s willing to acknowledge the severe reality of this virus, and more people are realizing the true power of face coverings in protecting themselves, their loved ones and their community.
Madison Roach is a senior WRTC major. Contact Madison at firstname.lastname@example.org.