Pandemic: Should I wear a mask or not?
The SARS-CoV-2 virus is responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic. Source: LifeScience
We received tons of questions regarding the utility of masks during this critical period of the Covid-19 pandemic. Let’s be honest there is so much confusing and sometimes conflicting information out there that it becomes difficult to make the best decision.
The official recommendation in many Western countries that the public should not wear face masks was motivated by the need to save these respirators for healthcare workers. Some have seen the WHO video stating that we should not wear a mask if one does not contract COVID-19 symptoms. They have used strong statements stipulating that masks give a false feeling of protection and can even be a source of infection when not used correctly. This certainly stigmatized those who wear masks in public and categorized them as hoarders or contagious people.
It seems now that it would have been preferable to explain with a serenity that we should not hoard these valuable masks, especially N95 or FFP2 ones, as the main production came from China, and at the time we faced severe global supply shortages. The medical staff are the absolute priority to be equipped with Respiratory Protective Equipment and inventories should be routed to them first. We believe that such a message would have been well received by the population and even “hoarders” would have given back these precious devices to hospitals for instance. Although the supply chain will take months to restore, during confinement (lockdown) and if social distancing and hygiene recommendations are strictly respected the population could live with a limited number of masks.
In contrast, the countries in Asia have strongly encouraged the population to wear masks to flatten the curve (to not confuse with eradication) of SARS-CoV2 virus propagation which is at the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even simple surgical masks or homemade (DIY) masks are welcome to help reduce the transmission. Any additional reduction of transmission would be welcome — even that offered by simple surgical masks or homemade (DIY) masks.
Let’s explain further why a mask is a good tool to reduce transmission. Basically “spray droplets” above 10µm until 0.1mm may evaporate or drop to the ground within 1.5m. This is what happens mainly when exhaling. However, coughing or sneezing could shoot these spray droplets out of the mouth like projectiles at a high speed from 2m to beyond 6m!
Source: Sui Hang, the mechanics of transmission of airborne disease by droplets from person to person
These large spray droplets are mostly stopped in our nose and throat (nasopharyngeal space) while the thin aerosol, meaning particles floating in the air, could reach deep into the lung (alveolar cells). Without getting too technical on the biology of transmission, the Coronavirus is locked to an enzyme mainly found in the nose/throat region. At this stage of knowledge, this may infer that any solution stopping the large spay droplets could greatly help to flatten the curve of transmission!
This is why it is extremely important to not cough or sneeze openly in public and protect others by coughing/sneezing in your elbow (NOT in your hands) or wearing a protective mask. The video offered by the Schlieren imaging technique of Lavision reinforces this message.
Just to be clear there is not one mask guaranteeing 100% protection, even using N95/FFP2 or N99/FFP3 masks. The Coronavirus is as small as 0.1µm diameter and even with the best mask if not correctly used one can be infected. Now, if we all respect social distancing, wash our hands appropriately and regularly, and wear any mask (DIY, surgical, or N95/FFP2) we could reduce significantly the transmission of this hazardous infection.
Source: Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System
When the confinement is lifted, it seems likely that everyone will be requested to wear a mask to mitigate the risks of a second wave of infections. This is already happening in Asia and some countries in Europe. The economic consequences of a lockdown are catastrophic and governments will take all measures to allow people to go back to work as safely as possible. The demand for masks will soar exponentially for months while the supply chain will face difficulty to cope with. In that case, it seems relevant to learn how to produce a mask with the material at home (if you feel handy this video is great with free patterns) until certified masks are available on the market (at reasonable prices!).
You could note that we intentionally did not discuss the AirBliss+® smart mask development as we believe that we should use all contact opportunities to provide you with valuable information to protect yourself in this critical period. We will do our best to communicate frequently on the masks in general: what the different grades mean, how to use them appropriately, and so forth. To know more please follow us on @airblissplus on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
Stay safe, stay strong!
Our elders knew better during the Spanish flu period.