When you wear a face mask, you’re protecting people that you care about, your family, your friends, essential workers, and everyone else that you come in contact with.
The CDC states that “A cloth face covering may not protect the wearer, but it may keep the wearer from spreading the virus to others.”1
COVID-19 is a coronavirus that primarily spreads through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, sings, shouts, and so on. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people nearby or be inhaled into the lungs.
Recent studies have shown that a significant portion of the individuals with COVID-19 lack symptoms (asymptomatic) or can transmit the virus before showing symptoms (presymptomatic). To reduce the spread of COVID-19, the CDC recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings when around people outside of their household to help prevent people with coronavirus from spreading it to others.
Wearing a cloth face mask helps protect people around you, including people at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, restaurant staff, store workers, and others. When widely used in public settings, cloth face covering along with other measures, like social distancing and hand washing, can help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
You’ve probably seen people wearing a variety of face masks during this pandemic. Are you wondering what’s the difference between them? Or which one is right for you? Different masks are recommended for different circumstances.
N95 Respirator Mask
In summary, the CDC currently recommends cloth face coverings for the general public. At this time, they state that “surgical masks and N95 respirators are critical supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders.”
Some cloth and N95 face masks have an exhalation valve. This valve makes it easier to breathe (exhale) and may help keep your face cooler. The CDC states that an N95 mask with a valve offers as much protection to the wearer as one without a valve. However, a mask with a valve should not be worn “in situations where a sterile field must be maintained because the exhalation valve allows unfiltered exhaled air to escape into the sterile field”.
Because a face mask is primarily used for source control to prevent the wearer from spreading the virus to others, a mask without a valve is a better choice to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Some people buy or create masks with a pocket inside to hold a filter, such as a coffee filter, unused vacuum cleaner bags, HEPA furnace filters, HVAC anti-allergy filters or other air filters. John Hopkins Medicine recommends making sure the filter is sandwiched between at least two layers of fabric to reduce your risk of inhaling potentially harmful filter fibers.