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What are the Different Types of Face Masks and What Will Protect Me from COVID-19?

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On April 3, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued updated guidance encouraging all individuals to wear a face mask in public when obtaining essential services, such as grocery shopping. This latest evolution in our national efforts to flatten the curve of COVID-19 has left many wondering what the best type of face mask covering to use is, and how to wear one effectively. To help you minimize your risk of COVID-19, read our face mask guidance below, as sourced from the education provided by the CDC.

Why is the CDC Now Encouraging Facial Masks to be Worn in Public?

Initial guidance about COVID-19 contagion mitigation stated that there was no evidence to suggest that wearing a facial mask in public would protect someone who had not yet contracted the illness. Face masks, health officials advised at the time, should only be worn by those who have been exposed to someone with the virus or by individuals who have tested positive.

What we know today, however, is that a significant portion of individuals who have contracted COVID-19 are asymptomatic, meaning they do not initially, or may not ever, exhibit symptoms. Despite these individuals not realizing that they are a carrier of the virus, they can still spread it to others. For this reason, the CDC now recommends that everyone, regardless of whether or not they are exhibiting symptoms or believe they may have contracted the virus, should wear a face mask in public.

What are the Different Types of Face Mask Options, and What Should I Wear?

When out in public or when viewing COVID-19 news coverage, you may commonly see three types of face masks:

  • N95 Respirators – A particulate-filtering facepiece respirator that meets the N95 standard of the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health air filtration rating because it filters at least 95% of airborne particles.
  • Surgical Face Masks – A mask intended to be worn by healthcare professionals during surgery to catch the bacteria shed in liquid droplets and aerosols from the wearer’s mouth and nose.
    • Click here for more information about the differences between an N95 respirator and a surgical face mask from the CDC.
  • Homemade Cloth Face Mask Coverings ­– Bandanas, scarves, and cloths that cover the nose and mouth. 

The general public is encouraged to use a homemade face mask at this time. Surgical masks and N95 respirators are in critical demand, and the CDC asks that citizens reserve them for use by healthcare workers and other medical first responders. You can make an effective cloth face covering from household or other common materials. The CDC provides instructions for creating a facemask from t-shirts, coffee filters, bandanas, and other cotton clothes here. All face coverings must be disposed of after each use, or laundered before being worn again.

Note that all homemade cloth face coverings should:

  • Fit securely but not uncomfortably against the face
  • Be secured with ties or ear loops to hold in place
  • Include multiple layers of fabric
  • Allow for unrestricted breathing
  • Be launderable without damaging the material or changing the shape

Cloth face coverings should not be placed on anyone who:

  • Is under age two
  • Has trouble breathing
  • Is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance

Stay Home. Stay Safe.

Over the next few weeks, as we continue to battle the global fight against COVID-19, stay home and stay safe. Follow social distancing requirements, and minimize unnecessary trips to public places, even if obtaining essential services. Together, we will flatten the curve of COVID-19 and recover as a world from this deadly and devastating illness.

If you think that you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or you have had symptoms BestMed is now offering COVID-19 screening and testing. You can make a telemedicine appointment to get screened or visit any of our clinic locations.

Get Screened Today for COVID-19