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Is It Actually Effective Against COVID-19? Unmasking the Face Mask

Social distancing is working, and the curve is getting flatter. It really shows that all this effort has not been for naught and that it is all the more important for each individual to do their part to slow down the spread of the virus. 

If you go for a walk outside, stay six-feet-apart from any other passerby. Disinfect your groceries when you bring them into your home. Wash your hands thoroughly and often. Wear face masks when you go out. 

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Well, actually – that last one seems to have some contradictory information surrounding it. There’s some debate as to whether wearing a face mask (some have even made some quite fun ones) is effective at all. 

Let’s see if we can break some basics, shall we?

Face masks help slow the spread of the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) advises the use of face coverings to slow the virus’ spread. It can also help prevent those who are asymptomatic—aka, people who have the virus but do not have any symptoms—from transmitting the virus onto other people. Even homemade face coverings are considered to be a “low cost … additional, voluntary public health measure.”

 

Homemade face coverings (e.g. bandanas, using at-home materials) are also a good alternative so that resources may be spared for those who need them. Rather than contribute to nationwide shortages and the stress on healthcare workers, alternatives allow needed resources to reach those on the front lines of this pandemic, as well as prevent further exposure to vulnerable populations.

Don’t contaminate the mask.

The purpose of the mask is to provide a barrier of protection from respiratory particles in the air; however, wearing a face mask is pointless if it is contaminated. One must ensure that their mask usage is optimized so that it is actually used properly. 

In order to prevent infection while wearing a mask, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends to adhere to the following: 

– Inspect the mask for any holes or tears to make sure that it’s intact.
– Wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol before putting on the mask.
– Cover your nose and mouth with the mask and make sure no gaps exist between it and your face.
– Avoid touching the mask while using it. Touching the front of your mask, which is exposed to the environment, can defeat the purpose of using it.
– If you do touch your mask, wash or sanitize your hands immediately.
– When your mask gets damp, replace it.
– Do not reuse these single-use masks.
– Remove your mask from behind rather than touching the front of the mask.
– Discard the used mask immediately in a closed trash bin and clean your hands again.

Additionally, the CDC says that cloth face coverings should be routinely washed (a washing machine would suffice), and that during removal, one should refrain from touching their eyes, nose, and mouth, and conclude with washing their hands immediately after.

Wear face masks where it’s hard to social distance.

According to the CDC, face coverings should be worn in public places where social distancing would be difficult. Examples of such places include pharmacies or grocery stores, locations said to have greater community-based transmission. 

 

For more information on face coverings, how to make your own, and COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website here.

Julien Padillo

West Chester '22

Julien Padillo is a third-year Media and Culture major at West Chester University, with minors in Digital Marketing and Digital Humanities & New Media. She has an affinity for writing, taking on anything from short stories, to poetry, to a research-backed essay. Huge Oxford comma stan (+ also of anime, cartoons, and taking naps). The end goal is this: she wants to be a part of the conversation – using her words as her voice and means to get there.
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