The use of cloth masks rose to popularity in the earliest stages of the pandemic; however, research shows cloth masks are less effective than medical masks. Due to the more transmissible COVID-19 variants emerging, such as delta, many countries are making the decision to ban cloth masks. It is unknown if America will follow in their footsteps and mandate medical masks. It is highly possible cloth masks will soon become obsolete as the push towards more protective masks is ongoing.
Mandating Medical Masks
Many European airlines have taken action to ban cloth masks on flights. Finnair is the latest airline to require medical masks, stating, “Fabric masks are slightly less efficient at protecting people from infection than surgical masks”. These airlines require passengers to wear N95 masks, surgical masks, or respirators that do not have exhaust valves.
As more coronavirus variants emerged at the start of 2021, European countries began to push the use of medical masks. They have stated that cloth masks do not offer as much protection and are not as effective. In America, the CDC recommends N95 masks be prioritized for healthcare workers; but this may be subject to change as more research emerges. Many healthcare companies in the U.S. are urging patients to wear medical masks.
Cloth Vs. Medical Masks
COVID-19 has been shown to spread in small droplets as people eat, cough, sneeze or talk. All masks are created for the purpose of protecting against these droplets before they have a chance to infect the wearer. Although all masks are intended to serve the same purpose, some are more effective than others.
A study done by the Environmental Protection Agency found N95 masks provide 95% filtration from these droplets. Surgical masks worn tightly to the face were shown to provide 71.5% filtration. Standard cloth masks, without a metal nose bridge, were found to provide only 26.5% filtration. Overall, the study proves that medical grade masks are typically more effective. They also found that all masks are proven to be more effective if they are worn closer to the face. This can be done by simply tightening ear loops and utilizing a metal nose bridge.
Some cloth masks provide substantial protection, but there are no rules regarding what types of cloth masks can be sold. Therefore, many companies are making the push towards medical masks. When buying a mask, it is important to refer to the CDC’s and FDA’s list of certified distributors. This will ensure the mask is up to medical standards and has the best chance of protection. In short, medical masks provide the best protection against the coronavirus and the government, and many companies, are taking notice.
Segran, E. (2021, August 1). RIP cloth masks? Why airlines and governments are banning them. Retrieved from https://apple.news/AnIQYEyFITfi3eAI-E2wXkA