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Feb 18

[ARCHIVED] Improve How Your Mask Protects You

The original item was published from February 18, 2021 to February 17, 2021 2:11 PM

Wearing masks are a protective measure recognized early in this COVID-19 pandemic.  The concept is simple.  COVID-19 particles exit a person’s mouth (Person A) who is infectious while she/he is talking, singing, sneezing, etc.  If those particles make it from Person A’s mouth to another person’s mouth (Person B), and are inhaled, Person B may also become infected.  Placing a barrier (mask) between Person A and Person B can stop this. Placing a mask on both persons can make an even bigger difference in stopping COVID transmission.

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A typical cloth mask will reduce particles entering the mouth by about 53%.1  However depending on the type of materials used and the fit, a mask can vary in effectiveness from a low of 28% particle removal to a high of 90%.  Considering the wide variability of mask efficiency, it is important to get this right!


Mask wearing tips:

Masks should be made of 2-3 layers of tightly woven fabric such as cotton

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This includes neck gaiters or buffs.  Choose buffs that are 2 layers of fabric or double the buff over.


Effective masks cover the mouth AND nose. They should fit snug on sides

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Masks should not be made of material that makes it difficult to breath such as vinyl or leather.  They also should not be made of loosely woven fabric, i.e., those that let light pass through.

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Plastic face shields should not be used as a substitute for a cloth face covering except when necessary for hearing impaired communications or other situations where communications with a cloth mask are impossible.  

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When doing outdoor winter sports like skiing or snowboarding, wear a scarf or commercial ski mask over a mask that reduces COVID transmission.  Many ski masks have holes in the mouth and nose area.  Scarfs are generally a loose woven fabric. Both are useless for controlling virus spread.  A neck gaiter needs to be doubled up to be effective. 

When a mask becomes wet or frozen it is less effective and can make breathing more difficult.  Bring an extra mask for winter sports activities.

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Photo from CDPHE:

Masks may cause glasses to fog.  To minimize this choose a mask that fits tight over the bridge of the nose such as those with a moldable wire.
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Some cone shaped mask had better particle removal efficiency than a surgical type mask design.

Once you have considered the above efficiency criteria it’s time to find a mask that is stylish and comfortable. 


*Images from CDC unless otherwise specified