By: Stephanie Hagan on June 8th, 2020
Five Face Mask Myths Debunked
COVID-19 | 6 Min Read
From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been hungry for more answers — we turn to the Google search bar, ask Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, and scroll endlessly on social media platforms to consume information that can keep us safe. We are lucky to have such a vast amount of data at our fingertips, but as we know, the internet can be a double-edged sword. With legitimate facts and scientifically backed studies comes just as much misinformation. The facts we do find can also be confusing. For example, face masks are one type of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that is commonly used by essential healthcare workers and the public, but that wasn’t the case at the start of the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) originally recommended face masks be worn by healthcare personnel only, but now the CDC suggests everyone should wear a mask when going out in public.
As experts learn more about COVID-19, their advice evolves, but so do the myths. As a supplier of PPE, Winvale realizes it’s important to know how to properly protect yourself from COVID-19. So here are five face mask myths debunked so you have the information you need to keep your business, your family, and yourself safe:
Myth 1: All Types of Face Masks Have Equal Protection
Fact: The level of protection against COVID-19 depends on the type of mask you are wearing.
Respirators such as N95 and KN95 masks provide the most protection against the virus. Respirators have a tight fit around your face, block out at least 95% of particles, and unlike other masks, they have to pass certain filtration standards around the world. In America, respirators must adhere to standards set by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). While N95 and KN95 masks are both respirators, N95 masks are slightly different in their use and availability and should be reserved for healthcare workers.
Medical masks do not always provide reliable protection from smaller particles, but they are meant to shield you from larger particles and droplets, sprays, and splatters that may contain germs. Your medical mask should be wide enough to cover your mouth and nose, and should rest on your face without a huge gap.
Cloth masks will not protect you from smaller respiratory droplets, but it may keep you from spreading the virus to others. The CDC recommends wearing a cloth mask in public areas where it’s impossible to maintain a 6-foot distance. They are easy to make on your own and can be washed for unlimited reuse.
Why wear a mask at all, then, if some types aren’t always reliable at blocking COVID-19?
Wearing any kind of mask can prevent people who are infected with COVID-19 from transmitting the virus. You can still spread the virus even when you’re asymptomatic, so wearing a face mask in public can protect the people around you. The more people wear masks, the lower the risk of transmission.
Myth 2: You Can’t Reuse Your Face Mask
Fact: Some types of face masks can be properly cleaned or sanitized for safe reuse.
For respirators like N95 and KN95 masks, you should never try to clean them with any type of solvent at home, but you can reuse them with proper care: place the respirator in a breathable container like a paper bag, and let it sit for seven days. You can damage the mask filter if you use Lysol, alcohol, or bleach, so letting the mask breathe is the best way for reuse.
You can wash your cloth mask in the washing machine or hand wash it using soap. You can also place the mask in a breathable container and let it sit in a warm place for two days.
Medical masks are disposable and are not meant for reuse. You should discard your medical mask for a new one as often as you can.
Myth 3: Elderly People and Those With Preexisting Conditions Are the Only Ones Who Should Be Wearing a Mask
Fact: COVID-19 can infect people at any age, but older people and individuals with preexisting health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease are more likely to develop complications from the virus.
Since face masks help prevent the transmission of COVID-19, it’s best to wear a face mask even if you don’t have any symptoms because you can help protect those who are more susceptible to the virus. A mask will trap small droplets expelled from your mouth when you talk, sneeze, or cough, and it may protect you from larger droplets from the people around you.
In a study conducted by researchers from the National Institutes for Health (NIH), lasers were used to count how many droplets of saliva were spewed into the air by a person talking with and without a face mask. When a cloth mask was used, almost all of the droplets were blocked by the fabric.
Myth 4: Imported Face Masks Can Infect You With COVID-19
Fact: With the increased supply and demand for PPE, face masks are being produced globally. That means a lot of the face masks coming into the U.S. are shipped from other countries. Although COVID-19 can survive on surfaces for a short period of time, the World Health Organization (WHO) says the probability of contracting COVID-19 from packages is low because the packages likely traveled over several days and were exposed to different temperatures in transit.
The CDC also recently updated their COVID-19 guidelines to say that the virus is not mainly spread from touching surfaces or objects, but it does spread easily from person-to-person.
Although rare, it is possible to contract COVID-19 from touching a surface and then immediately touching your mouth or nose, so be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after going through the mail.
Myth 5: Wearing a Mask Means You Don’t Have to Social Distance in Public
Fact: The CDC says social distancing “is one of the best tools we have to avoid being exposed to this virus and slowing its spread locally and across the world.” If you’re not a healthcare worker or essential worker, you should still stay at least 6-feet away from others in public even if you’re wearing a mask.
As mentioned earlier, cloth masks and medical masks do not always filter out smaller particles, so it’s still possible to contract COVID-19 while wearing a mask if you’re in close contact with someone.
In addition to wearing a mask while out in public and socially distancing from others, you should wash your hands, use alcohol-based sanitizers, and clean frequently touched surfaces daily. These are all effective ways to fight off the virus and should be practiced regularly.
Where Can You Find Face Masks and Other PPE?
As businesses begin to reopen and more employees begin to head back into the office, it’s important to protect yourself as well as others by considering wearing a mask. But where can you find one?
Cloth masks can be made at home with few materials, but respirators like N95 and KN95 masks can be difficult to find as the demand grows stronger.
Winvale recently announced a partnership with MediDent Supplies to provide PPE to the government, commercial businesses, and individuals. If you or your business is interested in procuring KN95 masks or 3-ply medical masks, reach out to a member of our Winvale team.
For more information on COVID-19, visit our Coronavirus Resource Library and subscribe to our blog.