After some time, people will start getting out of their homes and venture into public spaces and their respective places of work. The new normal is different, with seats arranged according to social distancing norms, clear barriers to protect working professionals, and a mandatory rule of wearing face masks.
According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, around 25-50% of people have a chance of carrying the infection, and they might spread the virus without symptoms. The virus is easily transmitted through the respiratory tract by merely speaking, sneezing, laughing, and coughing.
Face masks are not foolproof protection from the COVID-19 virus strain, but it is still better than not wearing a mask. It acts as an essential layer to physical distancing, worn while following the 6 feet distance rule and basic hand hygiene. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of N95, and other strong medical masks in the USA and other parts of the world since N95 marks are needed for frontline care people.
With the increasing demand for masks, the cloth masks market is booming exponentially, and the criteria behind what making a good mask are slowly getting lost amid mass production. These days, it has become challenging to know what exactly to look for while searching for a good mask. Here are some factors to look for in a good cloth face mask:
Stitched masks: Both of these options do the job when used correctly. These masks can be easily made at home. People who don’t have time to stitch these cloth masks can go for the pre-sewed options as well. Many local companies are selling home-stitched masks online and offline, following the mask guidelines issued by the CDC.
Not all face masks are safe: N95 masks used in the construction industry have valves that stay closed while breathing to protect the workers from harmful particles and fumes. The valves open while exhaling to make breathing easier and comfortable. These masks are prohibited for COVID-19 protection in some countries because they might protect the wearer but not the people around him. It is advisable to pair the N95 mask with a cloth mask to ensure the safety of the wearers as well as other people around him.
Fabric is important: According to the new guidelines issued by WHO, cloth masks made out of regular cotton fabric should have at least four layers of cloth, tightly woven and made with washable fabric. The inner layer should be made of a cotton blend that can absorb moisture. The outer layer should be made of a polyester blend that can block contamination and harmful particles that can penetrate through the mask, reaching the wearer’s nose and mouth. The middle layer should be made of either polyester or cotton to improve the filtration of the droplets.
Should contain a filter: The CDC recommends adding filters to the cloth masks for added protection. People who are making masks at home are adding coffee filters and experimenting with other products like cutouts from reusable grocery bags, non-woven fibers, nylon fabrics, paper towels, bra pads, kitchen towels, denim, and canvas. Filters used in PM2.5 masks that are made to protect the user from small particles of smoke and dust are also being repurposed to be used in homemade cloth masks. These filters do not provide thorough protection but improve protection when paired with a cloth mask.
Fitting: The masks should fit the face comfortably without causing any problems in breathing. The masks should also not slip from the nose in public. Otherwise, it would defy the entire purpose of wearing a mask. The face mask should provide a snug fit from the nose to the chin going back towards to ears. The mask will be useless if air gets inside from any of these three outlets. To curb this problem, cloth masks come in various shapes and sizes to choose according to the fit.
Durability: The cloth masks should be washed thoroughly with hot water each use. Therefore, before buying a mask, it is advisable to check the material and wear and tear. If the mask loses its shape after the first wash, it is of no use. Cleaning a filter-added mask will also be difficult as the filter should be washed separately. If there’s a coffee filter in the mask, it should be thrown away after each use. Also, the fabric should be washed prior to stitching to avoid shrinking after the first wash.
As the pandemic has caused damage to humanity and the environment beyond repair, wearing masks is considered as being the "new normal." It has become a necessity to be carried while leaving the house, just like a phone, wallet, and keys. People should strictly wear masks to take care of themselves and the people around them as per their preference for the material. Wearing a mask also signals others to be respectful and maintain a 6 feet distance at public places, abiding by the norms of social distancing.
A cloth face mask also acts as a subtle reminder that the stronger, N95 masks and industrial-strength masks should be left for those on the frontline of treatment. With several clothing brands coming up with colors, prints, and patterns, choosing a face mask wouldn't be difficult for people, and it can also become a style statement for some. But most importantly, homemade or store-bought, branded, or non-branded, stepping out with a face mask will always ensure the safety of people and others around them, a very crucial step towards containing COVID-19 spread.
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