What To Know About Masks + COVID-19


 

Editor’s NoteGet continuous updates about the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) and read up on #BigLittleChanges you can make to keep your community safe.


 

Be prepared with a mask or face covering the next time you go out in public. 

It is important to keep up with the CDC recommendations for mask use during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not all people who contract it show symptoms according to CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, up to 25% of people with COVID-19 might be asymptomatic. Because of this, it’s easy for those who don’t actually know they’re infected to spread the virus to others in close proximity, and masks could be a major preventative measure to curb asymptomatic transmission. 

COVID-19 is an airborne virus, which means that liquid droplets from sneezing, coughing and even just exhaling can linger in the air. 

The CDC recommends everyone wear face coverings in public, particularly in places where social distancing is difficult to maintain and opportunities for transmission are high, like pharmacies and grocery stores. Face masks can be routinely washed and re-worn, and are the best addition to social distancing to help slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Per CDC guidelines, it is still recommended that people maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from one another, avoid social gatherings and stay home as much as possible.

Types of masks 

Cloth masks 

Cloth face coverings or masks are a cost effective way to keep yourself safe, can be made from household items (like an old t-shirt and rubber bands) or bought online, and can be re-washed and worn again. These masks should be worn by the general public to help slow the spread of coronavirus, especially in high-traffic, public areas. These are not recommended when taking care of sick patients as they do not provide adequate protection from repeated exposure to the virus. 

Cloth masks can be vital because they help slow the spread of COVID-19 between people who might have the virus but are asymptomatic and do not know they are infected. Concerns now over those who unknowingly carry coronavirus are high, so shifting to a new social norm where everyone wears a cloth face mask is our best line of defense when coupled with social distancing measures.

Some people are opting to reinforce their cloth masks with disposable air filters to make them more effective. The CDC suggests doubling up protection by pairing a bandana with a coffee filter to make it more effective, while some people are sewing masks with filter pockets and using disposable HEPA filters. Reinforcing seems to be a good idea and recent tests have shown HEPA furnace filters and vacuum cleaner bags to be most effective, followed by coffee filters, while scarves and bandanas captured the lowest number of particles. 

At the very least, a simple cloth mask is better than nothing and will capture more particles than wearing nothing at all. 

Surgical Masks

These are single-use, loose-fitting masks meant to be used by those treating someone who is sick and/or suspected of having COVID-19. These masks can effectively block large particles but will not necessarily prevent small particles from being transmitted by coughing or sneezing. Because of supply issues, per the CDC, these should be reserved for healthcare professionals only at this time, as they endure constant exposure to COVID-19.

N-95 Masks

These are heavier-duty, tight-fitting, single-use respirator masks which also remove particles from the air, but filter out at least 95 percent of very small particles. Like surgical masks (but even more important and effective), due to supply concerns, N-95 masks are scarce in supply and should only be reserved for healthcare professionals, as they see repeated exposure to COVID-19.

Effectiveness

  • Multiple layer masks are more effective than single material masks.
  • Multilayer cloth masks can block up to 70% of the particles that spread COVID-19.
  • Gator and spandex masks offer little to no protection.
  • Transmission was decreased by 95% when masks are worn tightly with a surgical mask underneath a cloth mask.
  • Double masking reduced exposure to potentially infectious aerosols by more than 95% in a recent lab experiment.
  • To ensure effectiveness, be sure that your mask fits properly, as poorly fitted masks can allow air leaks around the nose and mouth.

Donate Masks

If you already have surgical masks or N-95s (or other personal protective equipment) in your possession and would like to donate them to healthcare workers in need, consider using these resources:

Mask Match

PPE Link

Donate Your PPE

Donate to a specific institution

Tips for wearing masks

According to the WHO, the use of these masks should be combined with other measures, such as hand sanitizing and social distancing. Specific recommendations for proper use include: 

  • Before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • Cover mouth and nose with mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.
  • Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not reuse masks until they have been washed.
  • To remove the mask: remove it from behind do not touch the front of the mask and clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. 
  • Place used cloth masks in a bag or bin until they can be washed with detergent/soap and hot water.

Learn how to make your own cloth face covering as recommended by the CDC here.

 


For more information and continuous updates about the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.

Read an interview with a nurse who has T1D and recently tested positive for COVID-19: One Nurse’s Story.

WRITTEN BY Beyond Type 1 Editorial Team, POSTED 04/07/20, UPDATED 02/23/21

This piece was authored collaboratively by the Beyond Type 1 Editorial Team. Members of that team include Director of Content Todd Boudreaux, Senior Program Manager Mariana Gómez, Beyond Type 2 Project Manager T'ara Smith, Director of Brand Communications Dana Howe, and Senior Project Manager Jordan Dakin.