The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone should be wearing masks or any face coverings whenever they interact with others or outside during this COVID-19 Pandemic. Wearing masks, especially when you are out in public, has become mandatory in many states. Now, what cover is recommended, and how each differs from those medical-grade masks?

As mentioned earlier, we are now living in a society under the “new normal” where social distancing, hand washing, and wearing face masks are a standard to reduce the coronavirus’s spread.

In an interview last June 12, 2020- Robert Redfield, the director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that it would be critical for people to embrace the principle of hygiene, social distancing, and mandatory wearing of face-covering in public before the US will consider re-opening. These recommendations have been imposed on the majority of the states across the country and a vital requirement for businesses before they can open again.

However, it’s critical that we understand that each face coverings and face masks come in various forms. From custom made cloth coverings to high-grade medical masks.

N95 respirators, N95 mask with breathing valve and disposable surgical face masks are those medical-grade masks. The surgical face masks are known to block larger particles and respiratory droplets from penetrating or exiting your nose and mouth. The tight-fitting N95 masks, respirators, and N95 mask with breathing valve were specifically designed to filter smoke, airborne viruses, and small particles.

For the non-medical face masks like reusable cloth coverings, hand made cloth masks, bandanas, and a scarf are also used in the same manner as a surgical mask, which is to protect us against larger particles and respiratory droplets like mucus or saliva.

Researchers suggest that by simply wearing these face covers, it can reduce the distance traveled by one’s breath by over 90%. Thus they are suitable protective measures against the coronavirus transmission.

Here are some essential things to know about N95 mask with breathing valve, surgical masks, and face coverings to protect you against the virus.

Face covering (Cloth masks, Scarves, Bandanas, etc.)

The use of face-covering such as cloth masks, bandanas, and scarves are meant to shield you in the same manner as to how disposable surgical masks do. They are blocking larger particles and those respiratory droplets, which has been the culprit of many airborne and viral transmission. Though the CDC did not provide a specific example of what should be used as a face covering, some San Francisco Bay Area officials are recommending fabric masks, bandanas, and a neck gaiter.

According to the California Department of Public Health, face coverings should cover the nose and mouth and be made from various fabrics, including cotton, silk, or linen. You can choose to buy some premade cloth masks or some fashion accessories from the usual household items like scarves, towels, bandanas, T-shirts, or sweatshirts.

These face coverings are reusable but should be properly washed in hot water to kill any bacterias on them and dried on a high heat dryer. CDC also recommends that we wash our hands after holding them because it might have some harmful virus or bacteria on their surface. Also, avoid touching your face or your face covering when wearing them outside or in public.

Surgical mask

If you’ve ever been to the dentist, surgical face masks will look familiar. Health care professionals use them to prevent the splashing of fluids into their mouths. They’re loose-fitting and allow airborne particles in. People commonly wear face masks in East Asian countries to protect themselves from smog and respiratory diseases, but these masks aren’t designed to block tiny particles from the air.

Again, a surgical face mask’s main purpose is to keep out the liquid of an infected person’s sneeze or cough from entering your mouth or nose. Wearing one can protect you from getting sick if you’re in close contact with someone who is ill and could also help prevent you from spreading your illness to someone else, so it’s common practice for medical professionals to wear them around sick patients.

N95 respirators

That’s where a respirator, a tight-fitting protective device worn around the face, comes in. When people say “respirator,” they’re usually referring to the N95 respirator, which gets its name from the fact that it blocks at least 95% of tiny particles, including viruses. Several brands manufacture N95 respirators with breathing valve, and they come in all different sizes. These are the masks people are most strongly requested to save for medical professionals, so it’s recommended that everyone not go out and buy them.

You should also know that N95 respirators come in two varieties, ones with an external one-way air valve and ones without it. With both types of respirators, the mask itself filters out the air you breathe in, protecting you from contaminants in the air. Respirators with a one-way valve help keep the mask cool and less stuffy because the warm air you breathe out escapes more easily.

Do masks and face coverings actually prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus?

The answer to this is technically yes, but the exact effect is difficult to define — especially on a large scale. Studies have shown that N95 masks are highly effective in preventing viral illnesses, but only in people who actually wear the masks correctly, which is rare.

N95 masks are difficult to put on for people who aren’t medical professionals. If you’ve put the mask on right, it gets hot and stuffy, so a lot of people take it off before it can do any good. In fact, some medical professionals believe these masks actually create a¬†more suitable environment for viruses to develop.

While face coverings do not filter out particles in the same way an N95 mask does, they are now recommended as an effective way of slowing the spread of the coronavirus, especially among people who have the virus, but are asymptomatic and still going out in public to get food or supplies.

Bear in mind that non-medical face coverings are only effective against spreading the virus if you continue to take social distancing measures and basic hygiene seriously. If you do follow, wear face coverings outside, don’t let it serve as a false sense of security.

The bottom line? If worn correctly and combined with other virus prevention methods, surgical face masks, N95 respirators and face coverings can help lower the risk of spreading viruses, including the novel coronavirus.

Author Bio

Sabahat Akhter is the Project Manager for leading printing companies producing promotional advertising products. She has experience in Data Management and Products Quality Assurance. QA and large scale production workflows are her expertise.

Sabahat Akhter,