What You Need to Know If You Wear a Cloth Mask in Public

The CDC now recommends the use of “sheet face masks to slow the spread of COVID-19. As we discussed earlier, cloth masks have their pros and cons , and some organizations are still hesitant about convincing everyone to wear them. The WHO, for example, has yet to provide an official opinion on the fabric masks, but hinted Wednesday that this could change.

If you do start wearing sheet masks, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Wearing masks doesn’t mean you can go out more often.

Masks are in addition to the precautions you are already taking, not a replacement. You still need to wash your hands frequently. You still need to keep six feet away from people. You should still stay at home, damn it, as long as possible.

Masks are not a magical force field, not even medical ones. And remember that even at best, sheet masks don’t work as well as medical masks.

Even if everyone is wearing masks, the virus can still travel through people’s infected hands and belongings. It can still slip through the cracks between the mask and your face. It may even be able to pass through the mask fabric itself, especially if the mask is wet. You can still transmit the virus to someone else, or get infected from someone else, if you wear a mask.

Consider masks contaminated after wearing.

Remember, if the purpose of the mask is to trap respiratory droplets, then the mask you were wearing is now full (and most likely impregnated with) these droplets.

The World Health Organization’s public service announcement of masks suggests that you are wearing a disposable surgical mask (which you should not do because these masks are in short supply and healthcare professionals need them the most). But it is reasonable to assume that similar precautions should be applied to cloth masks. Here are their recommendations on how to handle the mask so as not to spread rudeness around:

  • Do not touch the mask while using it; If you do, wash your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it becomes wet and do not reuse disposable masks.
  • To remove the mask: remove it from the back (do not touch the front of the mask); immediately throw it into a closed basket; Wipe your hands with an alcohol-based hand cleaner or soap and water.

This way, you don’t want to carry around the same fabric mask and put it in your pocket every time; you also don’t want to use your scarf as a cover for your face and then constantly touch it. Treat fabric face masks as if they were dirty after wearing, and consider your hands dirty if they touch your masks.

The CDC says face masks should be machine washed and “washed regularly.” No word on whether it can be washed in the sink .

There is no clear answer as to which mask is best.

In truth, this recommendation is unprecedented: no one has conducted large-scale research on how to get the entire population to wear cloth masks in the most effective way, or even whether it is worth it. Even our health authorities are guessing.

This is about choosing the right type of mask. The CDC recommends using something with multiple layers of fabric, but then makes three DIY recommendations, one of which only requires one layer of fabric for the T-shirt. Their other design suggests that you can sew two layers of cotton together, but their third recommendation is a bandana-style mask that you can insert a coffee filter into. Why isn’t just a few layers of bandana here when two layers of plain cotton are fine?

The advice is inconsistent, probably because there is no reason to choose one over the other. The Washington Post alsoasked experts about their preferences and found no consensus on which type of mask is best. “There is no evidence to point to one type,” said Raina McIntyre, one of the epidemiologists they spoke to.

When choosing a pattern, it makes sense to choose something that will allow you to fit snugly against your face and will be comfortable enough that you will not be tempted to take it off. Besides, we are in uncharted territory.


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