A User’s Guide to Face Masks
May 11, 2020
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May 11, 2020

The New York Times and Washington Post have now come round to a position I advocated for right here on Medium last week: We should always all be wearing masks. Not just health care workers, however ALL of us. At any time when we go out in public.

Why?

Because they work.

Analysis from the SARS outbreak in 2003 shows that washing arms 10+ times each day was fifty five% efficient in stopping virus transmission; wearing a mask was actually more effective, reducing transmission by about sixty eight%.

Combining multiple forms of protection — hand washing, masks wearing, gloves, and another layer of outerwear (gowning) — was 91% effective.

Read that again: 91% effective at stopping virus transmission.

COVID-19 and SARS are similar types of viruses (coronaviruses), and it is sensible that what works to cease transmission for one will work to cease transmission of the other.

Masks work, first, because they’re a physical barrier to whatever’s driving alongside on that air you’re breathing or moving through. Right here’s a chart showing the relative barrier effectiveness for various materials:

Secondly, they work because they hold you from touching your face all day long. The mask makes you more self-aware of the fact that you’re not supposed to the touch your face- specifically, your mouth, nose, and eyes, and the areas round them- and in case you unintentionally do, you’ll touch the masks, not your skin directly.

Third, the expertise of other countries who masks show that masks work within the real world. In the words of Jeremy Howard, researcher and Masks4All activist, explaining a chart in his latest Youtube video showing how some countries have successfully “flattened the curve” on new infections: “If you happen to look at all of the nations which have flat curves, they are international locations where mask-wearing is extraordinarily regular, and NOT wearing a masks in places like public transport could be considered anti-social.” He notes that the Czech Republic went from zero mask usage to one hundred% in 10 days, and in the process they halted the expansion of new covid-19 cases. The Czechs made their own masks- the federal government didn’t give them out.

Should you still have to be persuaded, take a look at this Chinese examine of a neighborhood outbreak case on January 22 throughout the peak Lunar New Year journey season. A sick particular person on the bus who didn’t interact with anybody spread the virus to 7 others, some of whom had been seated a lot more than 6 ft away. Two new passengers caught the virus 30 minutes after the unique sick person had left the bus. NONE OF THE PEOPLE WEARING MASKS WERE INFECTED. Read the article, it’s very detailed, with a schematic of precisely where individuals have been sitting on the bus.

So let’s say you’re convinced, and now you’re thinking of some form of face covering. What are your options?

First, please don’t purchase masks commercially, if by some miracle you can discover them now. Commercially made PPE should be reserved for medical personnel at this time. Unfortunately, the scarcity of commercially made PPE, and the shortage of foresight that caused us to be in such a position of scarcity, is probably why we initially received this messaging of “Masks don’t work!” They do, people just didn’t need you to comprehend it for a while, to keep away from a run on masks. Think of the empty cabinets in supermarkets across America the place rest room paper used to live, and also you understand why.

The best thing you are able to do to mask NOW are to make use of supplies across the house. Get inventive; anything that covers the mouth and nose and stays in place will work.

While it’s best if the mask matches well and there are not any gaps between your face and the outside air, don’t hand over on your homemade masks when you can’t achieve that. Any face covering will keep you from touching the skin around your nose and mouth directly, which could become a very powerful mechanism by which masks block virus transmission. For those who inadvertently contact your face while you’re wearing a mask, you’ll just contact the masks, not your skin.

You’ll be able to try to shape your face covering using pipe cleaners or opened-up rubber-coated paper clips in the half that goes over your nose to make a tighter fit — experiment. A very powerful thing is that you wash your arms, put on your face covering, and exit of the house protected.

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