By Isobella Harkrider at Reform Austin, November 17, 2020
Throughout the pandemic, it has become clear that facial coverings are the best defense for curbing COVID-19 and protecting others, but new studies show that specifically, cloth masks help both the wearer and those around them.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that multi-layer cloth face masks reduce the inhalation of respiratory droplets for the wearer, and reduce the exposure to infectious droplets through the filtration that a cloth mask provides.
An abundant amount of evidence shows that wearing a face mask protects others from the respiratory droplets that can be spread through talking, coughing, sneezing, singing, and breathing, and when it comes to cloth masks providing protection for your own health, the CDC says the filtration effectiveness of a cloth mask matters.
What type of fabric is best?
One important element is the thread count. Masks with multiple layers of cloth with higher thread counts have indicated greater performance to repelling moist droplets when compared to single layers of cloth with lower thread counts.
The material matters. According to the CDC, some cloth materials such as polypropylene (derived from plastic) creates greater filtering effectiveness against wet particles compared to silk, for example.
Some studies have shown cloth masks perform just as well as surgical masks when comparing barriers for respiratory droplets. However, at this time, the CDC states that further research is needed for the protective effect of cloth masks and to identify the combinations of materials that are best for filtering and blocking respiratory droplets, along with the fit, comfort, and durability of cloth masks.
In a study published this summer in Science Advances, researchers studied 14 different types of masks while the wearer repeated the sentence “Stay healthy, people” five times. When looking at droplet transmission, the study found that the most effective masks worn by people who are not medical professionals were made of cotton and polypropylene, these performed much better than masks that were knitted or neck gaiter masks.
Masks remain a powerful public health tool.
“These face masks are the most important, powerful public health tool we have. If we did it for six, eight, ten, twelve weeks, we’d bring this pandemic under control,” CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield said this month during a Senate committee hearing, CNN reported.
Redfield said he might go as far as to say a face mask was more guaranteed to protect him against COVID-19 than a vaccine.
Redfield believes there will be a vaccine available to the general public by the late second quarter or third quarter of 2021.