Which masks are the best?

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With the recent spikes in Covid-19, masks have become mandatory again all across the United States. The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation recently came out with a model revealing that if wearing masks was universal, then over 30,000 Covid-19 deaths could be prevented (“IHME: COVID-19 Projection,” 2020). Therefore, it is extremely important to wear a mask, not only to protect yourselves but to protect those around you. The sentiment of “wearing a mask is caring” must be exemplified through the wearing of effective masks. Thus, which masks are the most effective?

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N99/N95: This mask is best for filtering particles due to the seal around the mouth and nose. According to several researchers, the N95 mask was found to decrease one’s risk of infection by 94-99% in contaminated environments (Bendix, 2020). Therefore, the N95 mask is the best choice for preventing Covid-19.

Where to purchase: Currently not available and primarily distributed to health care workers.

Disposable Surgical Masks: If you do not have access to an N95 face mask, the next best option is a disposable surgical face mask. A recent study revealed that disposable surgical masks reduced the transmission of Covid-19. Additionally, it was found that disposable surgical masks are three times more effective at blocking viruses when compared to home-made masks (Leung et al, 2020).

Where to purchase: Amazon, Walmart, Henry Schein

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Mask with three layers (cotton/silk:) According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the best homemade face masks have three layers (Miller, 2020). The first layer absorbs particles, the second layer filters particles, and the third layer is typically made of nonabsorbent material, such as polyester (Bendix, 2020). Additionally, according to a Public Health England research, face masks were seen as a last resort for transmission prevention (Davies et al, 2020).

Where to purchase: Gap, Old Navy, Target, Amazon

Rockbros cycling face mask outdoor sports scarf bandana bicycle ...

Scarf, T-shirt, or Bandana: It was discovered that while scarfs and t-shirts are better than no protection, it is only 24% effective in a highly contaminated environment (Wilson et al., 2020). Therefore, this is not a great option for decreasing transmission. If you have the means, I would highly recommend investing in a better face mask option.

Where to purchase: Amazon, Target

Sources Cited

Bendix, Aria. “The Best And Worst Face Masks For COVID-19, Ranked by Their Level of Protection.” ScienceAlert, BUSINESS INSIDER, 16 July 2020, www.sciencealert.com/some-masks-are-better-than-others-here-they-are-ranked-best-to-worst.

Davies A, Thompson KA, Giri K, Kafatos G, Walker J, Bennett A. Testing the efficacy of homemade masks: would they protect in an influenza pandemic?. Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2013;7(4):413-418. doi:10.1017/dmp.2013.43

“IHME: COVID-19 Projections.” Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, 2020, covid19.healthdata.org/united-states-of-america.

Leung, N.H.L., Chu, D.K.W., Shiu, E.Y.C. et al. Respiratory virus shedding in exhaled breath and efficacy of face masks. Nat Med 26, 676–680 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-020-0843-2

Miller, Anna Medaris. “WHO: Fabric Masks Need 3 Layers to Best Curb Coronavirus Spread.” Business Insider Australia, Business Insider Australia, 5 June 2020, www.businessinsider.com.au/who-fabric-masks-need-3-layers-to-curb-coronavirus-spread-2020-6.

Wilson A.M., Abney S.E., King M-F. et al. COVID-19 and use of non-traditional masks: how do various materials compare in reducing the risk of infection for mask wearers? Journal of Hospital Infections 105, 640-642 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhin.2020.05.036

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