Wearing a Face Mask for COVID-19

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There is much talk these days with COVID-19 about the wearing of masks to cover your nose and mouth when out in public and at the workplace. Some states have mandated the wearing of such masks by employees in retail, construction and manufacturing industries who typically have not utilized such personal protective equipment (PPE). So what's the story and why should you wear a mask?

One diagram that has famously made it around through social media indicates that if everyone wore a mask it would effectively reduce the transmission rate to just 1.5%. That's a great thing but it fails to identify what type of mask nor reference the study for the basis of the data. Searching the archives of studies shows little data on the effectiveness of dust masks or fabric face coverings in the reduction of transmission of diseases.

Masks come in all sorts of varieties from the N95 filter masks used by health professionals, homemade fabric masks, all the way to a bandana around your nose and mouth. If you look at the studies and the various government sites, the evidence shows that masks such as the professionally manufactured N95 mask clearly can help prevent the spread of diseases such as COVID-19. However, there is really no data on the effectiveness of homemade or many other types of masks mainly because there are such huge variables in the material and design. Different types of materials have different types of filtering capabilities and design along with fit of any one particular mask on an individual can certainly change the odds.

So why wear a mask when you're at work or even out in public? Let's look at four solid reasons:

  • It my be a requirement of your State or your employer
  • Any type of mask will certainly reduce the amount of droplets YOU may expel to your surroundings or people around you if you were to sneeze, cough or even when just talking. This is certainly one key in reducing the spread of COVID-19 or any disease for that matter.
  • Any type of mask will certainly reduce the amount of droplets OTHERS may expel that could enter your system through the mouth or nose.
  • And perhaps one of the biggest reasons is that wearing a masks will make you aware of your mouth and nose area and prevent you from inadvertently touching these areas with your hands.

When wearing a mask it is important to keep several things in mind:

  • Fit it as closely as possible to the contour of your face especially around the nose and chin areas.
  • Make sure it's comfortable and sized correctly for your particular face structure.
  • Keep the mask on once you have it on. Constantly removing and putting it back on can dramatically reduce the effectiveness.
  • Apply and remove your mask carefully so as not contaminate yourself with whatever may be on the outside of the mask.
  • Keep the mask clean bearing in mind that studies have shown that washing fabric type masks can reduce the low effectiveness of fabric to begin with.

I would be remiss if I didn't end this toolbox without telling you that washing your hands is perhaps THE most important activity you can focus on to prevent the transmission of this or any other disease.

This toolbox topic was reviewed by ______________________________________ on ___________________________ with the following employees: